About The Penn Reading Project

Dear Students of the Class of 2006:

We are pleased to welcome you to campus this Fall with the Penn Reading Project, which this year celebrates its 12th anniversary. This year, the students and faculty chose Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe 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, and Candide by Voltaire.

Things Fall Apart is set among the Igbo people of Nigeria. It is a fictional story about the changes that happen as European Christian missionaries enter the tribe and introduce western changes. The hero of the story, Okonkwo, wishes to cling to the old way of life as much as his son wants to embrace the new. Things Fall Apart touches on difficult, timely issues, such as how to be different from one's parents, how Western culture interacts with other cultures, and how to handle pressures that come from self, family, and community. Remember when you are reading the book to keep in mind issues that interest you for discussion.

On the morning of Wednesday, September 4, 2002, you will attend a lecture on Things Fall Apart. 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.

Books will be mailed shortly in NSO packets. If you do not receive this mailer by July 25, please email us (International students may need to wait longer). We hope you enjoy reading the book and discussing it with your classmates.

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
Richard R. Beeman
Deputy Dean,
School of Arts and Sciences and
Dean of the College
Thomas W. Dunfee
Vice Dean and Director,
Undergraduate Division
The Wharton School
Kathleen McCauley
Interim Associate Dean and
Director of Undergraduate Studies
School of Nursing