Bernstein, Sontag, Anderson to visit

Kelly Writers House has announced that screenwriter Walter Bernstein, performance artist Laurie Anderson and critic-turned-novelist Susan Sontag will each spend several days on campus this spring as Writers House Fellows.

Walter Bernstein, once a regular contributor to The New Yorker, wrote the scripts for “Fail Safe” and “The Magnificent Seven” among others, but is best known as the blacklisted screenwriter during the McCarthy era who turned his story into an Academy Award-nominated movie, “The Front,” starring Woody Allen. He will be at Penn Feb. 17-18.

Laurie Anderson has been presenting ground-breaking performance pieces combining elaborate visual and musical effects for 20 years. The avant-garde artist now draws large crowds, but she hasn’t lost her edge. She has most recently been touring with her interpretation of “Moby Dick.” Anderson will be at Writers House, sans special effects, March 24-25.

As an art critic, essayist, anti-genocide campaigner and now novelist, Susan Sontag is the very personification of the idea of the engaged intellectual in our society. In 2000 her fictionalized account of life in a 19th-century utopian commune, “In America,” won the National Book Award. She will be on campus April 21-22.

Each fellow will participate in English 285, Contemporary American Writers, taught by English Professor Al Filreis. Admission to the course was limited to 20 students who will have the opportunity to study the work of these three distinctive voices in American literature and participate in a three-hour seminar led by the fellow.

The Writers House Fellows Program began five years ago with author Gay Talese in residence teaching a writing course. Since then the model is what Filreis calls “‘the triad’—different artists who represent a cross-section of writing disciplines, but with commonalties.

“[This year’s fellows] are all New Yorkers who have always written about New York, but with a new urgency since 9/11. They are all radicals, but most importantly, they are all public intellectuals who have made careers outside the academy.”

Besides the English 285 seminar, each fellow will participate in two other events that are open to the public. On Monday at 6:30 p.m. each will present a reading/presentation, and on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Writers House will host a brunch followed by a one-hour interview/conversation with Filreis as the interlocutor.

Reservations are necessary for the public events. To reserve a spot, e-mail whfellow@english.upenn.edu.

Originally published on January 30, 2003