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2017-18 Events

CALS began the 2017-18 school year as co-sponsor of the “First Books” Marathon Read. Attention turned next to Centre County Reads, where Sunil Yapa’s novel Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist helped reimagine the World Trade Organization protests that occupied Seattle in the fall of 1999. Inspired by Yapa’s book, CALS hosted a roundtable that asked “What is Activist Literature?” and co-sponsored a writing and art contest that asked entrants to capture “The Art of Protest.” March saw the Eighth Annual Spring Symposium, “Institutionally Speaking: The Object(s) of American Literary and Cultural Criticism,” and CALS concluded the year with the Seventh Annual First Book Institute.

2017 Marathon Read: First Books
September 7-8, 2017

This year’s Marathon Read followed the traditional format in which volunteers take turns reading from a variety of texts over a 24 hour period; the 2017 theme was “First Books,” which included JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City, and – as a special treat – Penn State poetry MFA Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon’s debut collection, Black Swan. Titles were made available in a variety of languages, including Spanish, French, English, Japanese, German, Portuguese, and Russian.



“What is Activist Literature?” Roundtable
February 27, 2018

In Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, Sunil Yapa reimagines the chaotic World Trade Organization (WTO) protests that took place in Seattle at the end of the twentieth century. WIAL?Inspired by the novel’s themes of activism, protest, and community, this roundtable discussion featured invited panelists who used the novel as a touchstone for a broader discussion centered on the question of what makes a piece of literature “activist.” Panelists included Charles Andrews, Associate Professor of English at Whitworth University, PSU Distinguished Professor of Sociology John McCarthy, Sarah Grossman, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for Humanities and Information (CHI), and Rose Luqiu, a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Communications.


"The Art of Protest" Writing and Art Contests

Winners Announced March 2018

Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist inspired this year’s Writing and Art Contest theme: “The Art of Protest." We asked entrants how one captures the sometimes fast-paced, sometimes patient events of protests, and whether one can enact protest through writing or art. Prizes were awarded in the categories Short Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Writer under 18, and Visual Art.



Institutionally Speaking: The Object(s) of American Literary and Cultural Criticism: The Seventh Annual CALS Spring Symposium
March 19, 2018

In this symposium, six invited external presenters and an equal number of Penn State faculty participants demonstrated innovative ways of conducting a socially committed criticism that responds to specific institutional crises by drawing inspiration from an American literary or artistic object of their choosing. If recent years have seen a crisis in criticism as an institution, the symposium’s participants modeled methods and modes for performing critique that make a case for the ability of criticism to respond fruitfully to
the manifold institutional crises of our time within and without the university.


A Discussion with Author Sunil Yapa
March 21, 2018

State College native and author of Centre County Reads 2018 Community Read selection Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist, Sunil Yapa returned to campus to discuss his novel in front of an excited audience. Yapa was first interviewed by WPSU, and then answered audience questions about his novel.