AmericanStudies

One Interesting American Thing per Day

Ben Railton

Ben Railton
Location
Needham, Massachusetts, US
Birthday
August 15
Title
Associate Professor
Company
Fitchburg State University
Bio
One interesting American thing per day, from a professor of American literature, culture, history, and Studies. Check out http://www.americanstudier.org for more!

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MAY 21, 2012 6:31PM

May 21-25, 2012: Nominees Needed for a National Big Read

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[With the spring semester entirely over and my long-awaited sabbatical commencing, I’m using this week to work on various ongoing and new projects, about which I’m sure you’ll hear more in this space. One of those projects could also use your input, though, so I wanted to feature a week-long blog post to ask for that input!]

At next spring’s Northeast MLA (NEMLA) conference, which will take place in Boston from March 21-24, 2013, I’ll be chairing a roundtable discussion on the following topic:

“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.”

If you want to be part of the roundtable, feel free to email(brailton@fitchburgstate.edu) me a brief abstract by September 30th. But in any case I’d love to hear your nominations for a national Big Read text right here in comments, or in the Forum, or more informally by email. I promise to bring ‘em to the discussion and the American Writers Museum too!

Thanks, more this weekend,

Ben

PS. You know what to do!

5/21 Memory Day nominee: Robert Creeley, the dense, challenging, experimental, and very important late 20th and early 21st century American poet, essayist, and scholar who helped change the face of poetry and higher education in America.

(Check the Memory Day Calendar each day for the 5/22 through 5/25 nominees!)

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