Penn welcomes John Barth as Writers House Fellow

Penn Current
April 19, 2012

There's a veritable John Barth read-a-thon underway at Kelly Writers House. Students are studying the work of the renowned author as part of a Writers House Fellows Seminar course taught by Writers House Faculty Director Al Filreis.

"All of us involved in the Fellows Seminar have been reading Barth nonstop for the last month, including his 700-plus page novel, ‘Giles Goat-Boy,'" says Jamie-Lee Josselyn, coordinator of the Fellows Program. "It goes without saying that reading John Barth's work and discussing his career has truly transformed the way the students think about writing, reading, and the nature of narrative."

An American postmodern novelist, Barth will visit Penn from April 23-24. As one of the 2012 Kelly Writers House Fellows, he will participate in an evening reading and informal teaching sessions with young writers, aspiring writers, and writer-critics.

Barth is considered one of the giants of contemporary literature, and his short stories are required reading in creative writing classes at colleges and universities across the country. His first novel, "The Floating Opera," published more than 50 years ago, was nominated for the National Book Award. He was nominated again for his 1968 story collection, "Lost in the Funhouse," and won the National Book Award in 1973 for his collection of postmodern novellas, "Chimera." In 1997, he won the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Fiction, and in 1998 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

Seating is limited for Barth's public programs. He will read from his work on Monday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Kelly Writers House. On Tuesday, April 24, Writers House will host a brunch at 10 a.m., followed by a one-hour public interview/conversation with Barth. Reservations are required for both programs. To RSVP, email

Both programs will be broadcast live on KWH-TV and streamed live on the Writers House website.

Josselyn says she believes that the Fellows experience is transformative for both students and guests.

"There is something about this experience at the Writers House that seems to actualize the careers of these great writers," she says. "They see the effect their work has had and the potential that exists in the Penn student writers."