Monday, February 25, 2013
February 25-28, 2013: The Even Bigger Read Still Needs You!
[Last week’s conference-inspired series got me thinking about my next conference, the Northeast MLA (NeMLA) convention in Boston (the weekend of March 21-24). I’ll be doing a few different things there, including starting a term as Second Vice President and giving a paper on José Antonio Vargas and the Tuscon Mexican American Studies protests. But it’s this roundtable I’m chairing for which I’d love your input!]
I’ll paste below the description of my NeMLA Roundtable, “The Even Bigger Read: Making American Literature National.” I’ve got six great participants who will share their nominations for one book all Americans should read at the same time (a la the more regional current Big Read program), along with one audience member who has interviewed the founder of the Big Read and will share his thoughts. But I hope that the question and answer session can include lots of other nominations and discussion—not only from the audience present at the roundtable, but from you all as well! So please share any and all nominations for a national Big Read, and I’ll be sure to bring your ideas to the roundtable (and credit you accordingly!).
“The Even Bigger Read: Making American Literature National
For those of us who care about making American literature more public, more connected to all Americans and their experiences, identities, and perspectives, the NEA’s Big Read program represents a great model for such efforts. Since its pilot project in 2006, The Big Read has brought a number of great, complex, vital works of American literature to local communities and schools, getting lots of Americans reading and engaging with those works in the process. Yet the program is explicitly local, with different communities reading different books—there are both practical and philosophical arguments in support of that local element, but it does leave room for a more genuinely shared, national engagement with American literature.
In this roundtable session, I’ll take nominations for a nationwide Big Read—books (in any genre) that should be read and engaged with by all Americans. We’ll talk not only about why, about what makes these works so vital and broadly significant, but about the effects, of what in our public conversations, narratives, communities, identities, histories, and stories would change if we read these books as a nation. We’ll also take suggestions and ideas from the audience.
This conversation can help us not only further define American literature and culture, as we collectively understand them, but also envision our own roles and purposes as public scholars of American literature and identity. And since I’m an advisor for the in-development American Writers Museum, I’ll also bring these ideas to that institution, to help shape how it reflects our most shared and significant literary works.”
So what do you think? What book should all Americans read at once? Nominate below, and I’ll bring your ideas to Boston in March!
February recap on Friday,
PS. You know what to do!