July 1, 2003

Dear Students of the Class of 2007:

We are pleased to welcome you to campus this Fall with the Penn Reading Project, which this year celebrates its 13th anniversary. This year, the students and faculty chose The Quiet American by Graham Greene for you to read.

Designed by the Penn faculty as a shared intellectual experience for all new students, the Reading Project was launched in 1990 with a discussion of Euripides' tragedy The Bacchae. Texts used in subsequent years include the autobiographical Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Garry Wills' Lincoln at Gettysburg, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Candide by Voltaire, and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

The Quiet American , originally published in 1955, is set in Vietnam during the last days of French rule. It tells the story of a developing friendship between Fowler, a middle-aged British journalist working in Saigon, and Pyle, a young "quiet American" who has come to Vietnam full of idealism. Fowler and Pyle's relationship becomes fraught on several levels: a triangle develops involving Fowler's Vietnamese mistress; and more problematically, Pyle's idealism leads him into questionable political policies and, ultimately, bloodshed.

Called the most famous Western work of fiction about Vietnam, The Quiet American delicately balances issues of personal responsibility and the global consequences of our choices. In particular, Pyle--about whom Fowler says, "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused"--becomes a catalyst for broader questions of the morality of colonialism and war. Remember when you are reading the book to keep in mind issues that interest you for discussion.

On the morning of Sunday, August 31, 2003, you will attend a lecture on The Quiet American. Then in the afternoon, you will meet in small groups with your assigned discussion leaders. These leaders will expect that you have read the novel before the discussion so you will be ready to participate in a lively discussion. There will also be a number of related events on campus throughout the coming semester. Further details will be provided when you arrive on campus, or you may send an email to prp@pobox.upenn.edu.

It is our pleasure to enclose your copy of The Quiet American. We hope you enjoy reading the book and discussing it with your classmates. For additional information on Graham Greene, The Quiet American, the Penn Reading Project, finding your lecture location, library resources, and discussion questions, please visit http://www.upenn.edu/nso/prp.

We wish you a wonderful summer and look forward with great expectation to your arrival in the Fall.

Norman Badler
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
School of Engineering and Applied Science

Rebecca Bushnell
Dean of the College
School of Arts and Sciences
Barbara Kahn
Vice Dean and Director
Undergraduate Division
The Wharton School

Kathleen McCauley
Interim Associate Dean and
Director of Undergraduate Studies
School of Nursing

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