Literary starshine to light up the campus

Three literary legends are bringing a little of their starshine to campus as the 2003 Kelly Writers House Fellows.

Performance artist Laurie Anderson, novelist and essayist Susan Sontag, and formerly blacklisted screenwriter Walter Bernstein will each give a public reading and host a brunch followed by a one-hour conversation.

Bernstein, scheduled for Feb. 17 to 18, is perhaps best known by his work, which includes movies “The Molly Maguires” and “The Magnificent Seven.” Though unfairly blacklisted and unable to write for motion pictures for nearly a decade, he wrote for television under a pseudonym during the 1950s.

Anderson, who will come to campus March 24 to 25, is a veritable polymath of the arts, with spoken-word performances, music, song, video, film and a variety of experimental electronic media.

Sontag, named a MacArthur Fellow in 1990, is coming to campus April 21 to 22. Her work ranges from philosophical essays, like those in her book “On Photography,” to short stories and novels, including “The Volcano Lover.”

This year’s fellows “all work in popular art forms—art that many, many people take in,” said Writers House Director Al Filreis. “One issue the students…will face this year…is the apparent tension between aesthetic integrity…and the demands of a large, popular, mass audience.”

The Fellows program, which makes it possible for young writers to spend time with accomplished authors, is funded by a grant from Writers House benefactor Paul Kelly (C’62,WG’64).

“With the grant for the Fellows, we can get bigger names,” said

Allie D’Augustine, this year’s program coordinator, who added that students expressed an interest in including women in this year’s group.

Past Fellows have included David Sedaris, Grace Paley and John Edgar Wideman.

“We have been striving for a cross-section of styles and careers,” Filreis said.

For information about upcoming Writers House programs, go to www.english.upenn.edu/~wh.

Originally published on October 3, 2002