Category Archives: Conferences

The Common Reader

ALSCW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, November 5th at the ALSCW conference in Princeton, NJ, Patricia Hampl, Mark Edmunson, Mark Halliday and Phillip Lopate sat on a panel to discuss “The Common Reader” and the common, contemporary experience of reading.

Hampl focused on the relationship between the author’s mind and the reader’s mind, specifically in personal forms of writing. She cited Fitzgerald’s collection of essays, “The Crack-Up,” as a series of psychological breakdowns between story and poem that marked a shift from omniscience to an autobiographical and personal voice.

Mark Edmunson found that the common reader is one who reads for pleasure and easy enjoyment; with many people working a 40 hour work week and needing two incomes to get by, Edmuson explained, the common reader does not wish to undertake the strenuous effort required to understand complex texts. The media, also, no longer strives to shape tastes as it once did. If it took this approach, Edmunson hypothesized, the common reader would feel dumb. Taking a somewhat cynical approach to the topic, Edmunson saw the common reader as a kind of narcissus, not looking for a challenge so much as instant gratification.

Poet Mark Halliday spoke of the use of accessible versus difficult language in poetry, and his own inclination as a poet to identify with the common reader. Citing the tendency of common readers to conceive of poems as characterized by non-transparent, obscure language, Halliday argued for the power of simple, accessible language to convey complex ideas. He spoke of clarity and obscurity not as binaries, but rather as different methods of approaching a poem. Language with surface simplicity can convey an underlying difficulty, he related, while seemingly inaccessible language can convey the simplest of ideas. Phillip Lopate, the final speaker, called himself a common reader, one looking for an understanding of the way things are, what he called wisdom, or, the loss of innocence.

 

Matthew Connolly

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Robert Schwab of The DENVER EXAMINER Writes About The 2009 ALSC Conference

Schwab writes, “[E]ven in the snow and cold, the confab was a good opportunity for Colorado’s literary crowd, led by Boulder poet David J. Rothman, a ALSC board member, to show off our city’s arts-friendly infrastructure to a pretty brainy group of mostly East Coast literary heavy-lifters.”

To read the full article, click here.

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Conference: Wallace Stevens, New York, and Modernism

A reprint of  an advertisement of interest.

Gallatin School, New York University
March 4–6, 2010

New York University’s Gallatin School will host a conference, co-sponsored by the Poetry Society of America, on March 4, 5, and 6, 2010, on the work of Wallace Stevens. Stevens’ poetry will be at the center of the conference, and speakers include some of Stevens’ most distinguished readers—scholars and poets alike. Presentations will consider Stevens’ early work in New York in relation to the temper of the times, but also how his continuous relationship to the city might have helped to shape his later poetry. Those interested in attending or in receiving more information should contact

Lisa Goldfarb
lisa.goldfarb@nyu.edu

or

Nicole Derise
nicole.derise@nyu.edu

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Lesley University Writers’ Conference – July 2009

The 2009 Lesley University Writers’ Conference runs from Sunday, July 29 through Friday, July 31 on Lesley’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Faculty includes Afaa Michael Weaver and Steven Cramer (Poetry), David Elliot (Children’s Book Writing), Marcie Hershman (Nonfiction), and Rachel Kadish and Michael Lowenthal (Fiction). The guest authors this year are Julia Glass, M.T. Anderson, and Gail Mazur.

For detailed information, visit www.lesley.edu/info/luwc.

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T.S. Eliot International Summer School, June 27 – July 4, 2009

Director: Professor Ronald Schuchard (Emory University).

Executive Director: Dr Wim Van Mierlo (University of London).

The Summer School will bring together some of the most distinguished scholars of T.S. Eliot and Modern Literature, including Jewel Spears Brooker (Eckerd College), Robert Crawford (St Andrews), Anthony Cuda (North Carolina), Denis Donoghue (New York), Mark Ford (London), Jennifer Formichelli (Boston), Lyndall Gordon (Oxford), Jason Harding (Durham), Barbara Hardy (London), Gail McDonald (Southampton), A. David Moody (York), Christopher Ricks (Boston), Ronald Schuchard (Emory), and Wim Van Mierlo (London). The School will be opened by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney.

The School will present two lectures each morning on all aspects of Eliot’s life and writing. Afternoon seminars are devoted to a week-long, in-depth study of Eliot’s work. Students can select from such topics as Introduction to T.S. Eliot; The Early Poems; The Making of The Waste Land; The Later Poems; Eliot as a Dramatist; Eliot as Critic. An extensive social programme will include poetry readings by Paul Muldoon and Josephine Hart, a walking tour of Eliot’s London, and excursions to Little Gidding, Burnt Norton, and East Coker.

For enquiries, registration and programme information:

http://ies.sas.ac.uk; Tel: +44 (0)20 7862-8680

E-mail: zoe.holman@sas.ac.uk

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ALSC Members Present at AWP Conference in Chicago

Several ALSC members are presenters at this year’s Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, held February 11th to 14th at the Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. The AWP Annual Conference is an essential gathering for writers and those in the literature field. Featured readers this year include ALSC members Andrew Hudgins (The Ohio State University), Heather McHugh (University of Washington) and David Yezzi (The New Criterion). Reginald Gibbons, Professor of English at Northwestern, will participate in a featured tribute to Thomas McGrath.

The ALSC is well-represented in the Conference’s numerous panels, forums, and readings by such distinguished poets and literary professionals as Paul Breslin (Northwestern University), Molly McQuade, Don Share (Poetry magazine), A. E. Stallings, and Rosanna Warren (Boston University).

For a complete listing of Conference events and exhibits, and for more information about the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, please visit www.awpwriter.org.

– Richie Hofmann

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Azar Nafisi Interviewed by Goodreads.com

In conjunction with the January 2009 release of her second memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About, author and teacher Azar Nafisi gives an exclusive interview to Goodreads.com for their popular “10 Questions With…” series.

In the interview, Nafisi shares her motivations for writing the book and answers questions about the difficulties of writing to an international audience. She eagerly emphasizes the significance of storytelling “as a way to communicate with the world” and learning how “to deal with books… [as] a participatory process.” Ms. Nafisi’s book is not just about Iran, or just about the personal memories she has of her mother: it is about the boundary between fact and fiction, and what she calls an “entry permit” into literature whose appeal is universal. “I hope that people in Iran understand that this is not about dirty secrets,” she says; “I hope they will read it as a desire to discover some truth and as a celebration of individual lives.”

Her fundamental message of connecting through literature and culture resonates particularly strongly in the current partisan atmosphere, and she maintains that “the simplistic notions that politics creates about other people is all negated through reading books.”

Ms. Nafisi is certainly well qualified to speak and write on the subject, having experienced firsthand the evolution of Iranian society under the new regime. She has written extensively about Iranian culture and is celebrated for what she calls her “obsession” with liberal arts and culture, but also for her strong belief in education, which fuels the plot of her memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Azar Nafisi will be the featured speaker at the Fifteenth Annual ALSC Conference, to be held in Denver Colorado, October 2009.

Goodreads is the largest social network for readers in the world, allowing members to review books, contact authors, hold discussion groups, post original writing, and more.

– Chelsea Bell & Erin McDonagh

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