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2014-2015 Events

CALS began with a strong start in the 2014-2015 academic year, co-sponsoring the Marathon Read on "Banned Books." The spring 2015 semester kicked off with a CALS symposium, "Circuit, Current, Connection," in February, followed by a series of events inspired by Jess Walters's novel, The Beautiful Ruins: a writing contest, a round-table discussion, an evening with and then a reading by the author. CALS also held its annual spring symposium, "American Literature as a Public Space" in late March. Finally, CALS wrapped up its event-filled year with the First Book Institute in June, 2015.


2014 Marathon Read: Banned Books
September 24-25, 2014

During this annual event, volunteers took turns reading a work of literature over a 24-hour period. The 2014 theme, “Banned Books,” featured not one, but three novels: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.


Circuit, Current, Connection
February 27, 2015

Six leading scholars in nineteenth-century and modernist American literature joined the Penn State community to examine the co-evolution of technologies, media, and social worlds over the last two centuries. By taking up the circuits structuring cultural and political relations, and the ways they are imagined in American literary spheres, this symposium productively mediated the connection between two critical periods and fields.



"Beautiful Ruins" Writing Contest
March 2, 2015

This writing contest was part of the 2015 Centre Country Reads/CALS Community Read of New York Times bestselling author Jess Walter’s novel Beautiful Ruins. Beautiful Ruins interweaves many stories in which “beautiful ruins” are embodied in the characters, their memories, and the novel’s multiple settings. The contest asked participants to write about what they perceived to be a "beautiful ruin" in one of five categories.



Hollywood: A Roundtable Discussion
March 5, 2015

This event was part of the 2015 Centre County Reads/CALS Community Read of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins. In his novel, Walter explores the global impact of Hollywood on twentieth-century thought, culture, and aesthetics. In this CALS-sponsored roundtable discussion, panelists used Walter’s novel as a touchstone to discuss the influence of Golden Age Hollywood on American history, including its effects on literary fiction, celebrity culture, the modern studio system, and contemporary entertainment.


An Evening with Jess Walter
March 17, 2015

This event was part of the 2015 Centre County Reads/CALS Community Read of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins. Community members came out for a “beautiful” night of conversation with bestselling author Jess Walter, whom The Philadelphia Inquirer has called “a genius of the modern American moment.” Walter spoke about the development of Beautiful Ruins and then responded to questions from the audience about his work.



Reading by Jess Walter
March 19, 2015

Jess Walter—the 2015 Steven Fisher Writer-in-Residence at Penn State—read from his published work and work-in-progress at Foster Auditorium. Jess Walter is the author of eight books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins. He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award and won the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Harper’s, Esquire, McSweeney's and many other publications.


American Literature as a Public Space: The 5th Annual CALS Spring Symposium
March 30, 2015

In this symposium, CALS sought to encourage and to provide a vital forum for new ways of reading and thinking about American literature. Consistent with that emphasis, this symposium brought together five invited participants with Penn State students, faculty, and the public at large to celebrate the many innovative ways individuals, museums, centers, foundations, libraries, blog sites, and other spaces are engaging readers, drawing them together, and making American literature an important public space.