Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop Selected as Penn Reading Project Text

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | jposey@upenn.edu | 215-898-6460August 14, 2013

Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop by literary scholar Adam Bradley is the selected text for the 2013-14 Penn Reading Project at the University of Pennsylvania and kicks off Penn’s Year of Sound.                         

PRP was created 23 years ago to introduce pre-freshmen to academic life at the University. It is an initiative of the Office of the Provost, Council of Undergraduate Deans and Office of New Student Orientation and Academic Initiatives.                

Penn’s broader Year of Sound theme will be will be reflected in additional activities including workshops, lectures, seminars and other events throughout the academic year.                                                                                                                        

First-year undergraduates read the book before the start of fall classes. As part of New Student Orientation for the Class of 2017, the students will join discussion leaders from all 12 schools at Penn on the morning of August 26 for small group discussions. Later that afternoon, the author will address the students at a panel discussion moderated by Guthrie Ramsey, professor of music and Africana studies.                                                                                                      

The Book of Rhymes is a systematic analysis of hip hop through the lens of history and contemporary poetry.  It is divided into two sections, structural elements of rap music, “Rhythm, Rhyme and Wordplay,” and thematic elements of “Style, Storytelling and Signifying.”                                                                                                                                               

In recommending the book for PRP, the Year of Sound steering committee noted the aptness of hip hop as an area of exploration because it encompasses sound both in music and in poetry and is an example of how sound plays a vital cultural, social and political role.                                                                                                                                

David Fox, director of the Penn Reading Project and New Student Orientation, said that Book of Rhymes was recognized as an academic work that would appeal to students who may be familiar with hip hop but have probably not explored it in an intellectual context.                                                                                                                      

“I think it’s exciting,” Fox said. “It’s a great kickoff to the college experience — bringing research and intellectual rigor to topics students might not have studied in high school. Some students may know a lot about hip hop, but to see a scholar conceptualize it historically and rhetorically will be a real eye opener to what the next four years will bring.”                                                                                                                 

Past Penn Reading Projects have included John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, Jane McGonigal's Reality Is Broken, Rose George's The Big Necessity, Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia as well as Thomas Eakins’ painting The Gross Clinic.       

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