Pulitzer Prize winners to visit Penn

Three Pulitzer Prize-winning writers will be at Kelly Writers House this spring as part of its annual Fellows Program. This year’s Writers House Fellows are fiction writer Michael Cunningham, poet John Ashbery and playwright Charles Fuller.

Cunningham, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel “The Hours,” will be on campus Feb. 11 to 12 (see “What’s On”). “The Hours” imagines Virginia Woolf’s last days before her suicide and a group of contemporary characters grappling with love and despair.

Ashbery, the winner of the 1976 prize for his book of poetry, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.” will follow on March 25 to 26.

And Fuller, whose acclaimed “A Soldier’s Play,” won the 1982 drama prize, will visit April 15 to 16. His play concerning an investigation of the murder of a black sergeant of an all-black company was also made into a movie called “A Soldier’s Story.”

The Writers House Fellows Program was started in 1999 on an experimental basis with writer Gay Talese and became a permanent part of programming the following year when Writers House benefactor Paul Kelly (C’62, WG’64) funded the project. Each spring, the Writers House brings three fellows to campus for a two-day visit. The first day of each visit includes a public reading followed by an informal discussion and then a private dinner. The following day includes brunch and a live Webcast interview with each fellow.

Each of the fellows also leads a three-hour seminar with students from English 285, Contemporary American Writing, taught by Professor of English and Writers House Faculty Director Al Filreis, who said the chance for undergraduates to meet three Pulitzer Prize winners face-to-face was extraordinary.

When asked about his criteria for whom to invite as a fellow, Filreis emphasized the writers’ interest in working with young and budding writers and the nature of the program as a kind of apprenticeship.

Tahneer Oksman, program coordinator and a student in Filreis’ class, said, “I am very excited to meet the writers in person and see how their personalities reflect from their works and how they differ.”

Go to www.English.upenn.edu/ ~wh/webcast to participate in the real-time Webcasts at 10 a.m. on the second day of each visit.

Originally published on February 7, 2002