Writers House invites profs to speak

By Benjamin Wu
The Daily Pennsylvanian
February 2, 1996

An hodgepodge of intellectual creativity gathered at the Writers House last week to participate in an event entitled "Writing A Community."

Almost 15 faculty members and administrators read a variety of personal works to other faculty and more than 30 students.

Faculty represented departments ranging from English and History and Sociology of Science and Computer Science Engineering.

According to College senior Shawn Walker, Writers House student coordinator, the event "was meant to help foster extracurricular relationships between faculty and students as well as demonstrate that we define the term 'writer' and 'creative writi ng' very loosely.

"Those who feel comfortable carrying or even just exploring the label are welcome to use the house," she said.

Faculty were encouraged to present any type of writing as long as it was "creative," Walker said.

"We asked for 'creative writing' -- anything from poetry, fiction, letters, marginalia," she explained. "We left the interpretation of this category up to the individual professors."

The event began with visiting writer Shirley Abbott, author of Bookmaker's Daughter and Womenfolks.

As a memoir writer, Abbott described what she does and why she does it.

"The child that one remembers so long ago becomes another person and one is unable to look back and write with bitterness," Abbott said.

The professors who read their works last night covered genres including research material, personal experiences and translations of literary works originally written in other languages.

Sociology Undergraduate Chairperson Harold Bershady read from his research on "The Sociology of Dreams," while History and Sociology of Science Undergraduate Chairperson Nathan Sivin read his translations of traditional Chinese works and poems, incl uding an ancient text called Lao Tzu.

"I chose a translation of poetry because I thought it would be most interesting," Sivin said."The Writers House seemed like a cause very much worth supporting.

"Writing is extremely important because there is no real way to understand what one really knows without writing it out to see," he added.

Other faculty in attendance included Computer Science Engineering Professor David Farber, English Professor Houston Baker, director of the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture, English Undergraduate Chairperson Al Filreis and Associa te Vice Provost for University Life Larry Moneta.

College freshman Anh Lam described Filreis' reading as "alive and very animated."

"But it was all very good," Lam said. "This event really allowed me to see English as an art rather than a bunch of mechanical grammar."

The Writers House, a pilot program associated with the 21st Century Project, attempts to extend writing beyond the classroom and across the entire range of undergraduate experience, according to Filreis, who is serving as the Writers House faculty d irector.

The house, located on 3805 Locust Walk, will officially open next fall to promote and pursue this goal.

"It is a long overdue venture," English Professor Herman Beavers, who also read his work. "I hope this continues for a long time."