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2019-20 Events

CALS began the 2019-20 school year as co-sponsor of the "Myths, Legends, and Songs from around the World" Marathon Read. Attention turned next to Centre County Reads, where Alice McDermott's Charming Billy explores the struggles of her title character, Billy Lynch, as he navigates friendship, family, and romance as a second-generation Irish immigrant in America. Inspired by McDermott's book, CALS planned to host a roundtable that examined "American Dreams: Romance & Reality" that was unfortunately cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  CALS also co-sponsored a writing and art contest that asked entrants to try "Careful Writing." The Ninth Annual Spring Symposium, "Disability's Environments," was scheduled for March, but had to be postponed until the 2020-21 school year, again due to the pandemic.  CALS will conclude the year with the Eighth Annual First Book Institute.

2019 Marathon Read: Myths, Legends, and Songs from around the World

September 19, 2019

The Marathon Read celebrated global myths, legends, and songs. It featured texts written or published in languages from around the world, including The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, “Ithaka” by the early twentieth-century Greek poet C. P. Cavafy, and others, as well as songs such as "24 hours" and "Que Tiene."


February 8, 2020

Callanish band members Patty Lambert, Betsy Gamble, Holly Foy, and Louisa Smith played songs to show the spirit of Ireland, Scotland, and the British Isles and explained their musical instruments and the evolution of Irish music upon immigrants’ arrival to the United States.

Justin Houser

February 15, 2020

Local historian and genealogist Justin Houser gave a talk titled “Waves Across the Ocean: The Background of Several Irish Migrations to Central Pennsylvania” at the Holt Memorial Library in Philipsburg. Houser spoke on why immigrants left Ireland behind and where the immigrants chose to settle, focusing especially on Central Pennsylvania.

Nalini Krishnakutty

March 3, 2020

Dr. Nalini Krishnakutty gave a lecture titled “Re-Viewing History: Centering the Stories of Immigrants.”  She presented stories about immigration to the United States. She spoke about the humanizing effect of learning the stories behind immigrants and emphasized that the US is a land of immigrants who coexist, thus demonstrating that there are multiple ways to be American.

"American Dreams: Romance & Reality" Roundtable Discussion

March 30, 2020-Cancelled

In Alice McDermott’s National Book Award-winning novel Charming Billy, second-generation Irish American cousins living in Queens, New York, inherit the dreams—and the American dream—of their immigrant parents. At a wake held in the 1980s for the title character Billy Lynch, a tight-knit community of mourners meditate on the romantic underpinnings of, and the darker lived realities often belying, hopes and dreams passed on from one generation to the next. In this roundtable discussion, three panelists were set to use McDermott’s novel as a touchstone for a broader discussion about how, why, and to what end immigrant dreams are passed on, taken up, and transposed across generations in American literature, history, and society.  Unfortunately, the actual roundtable never occurred due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Panelists were to include:

  • Mary Paniccia Carden - Professor of English and Chairperson of the Department of English and Philosophy at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Women Writers of the Beat Era: Autobiography and Intertextuality (2018) and Sons and Daughters of Self-Made Men: Improvising Gender, Place, Nation in American Literature (2010), and she co-edited Doubled Plots: Romance and History (2003). Over the course of her twenty-year career, her research and teaching have focused on literary responses to American narratives of freedom, progress, and self-determination. In 2019 Carden was recognized as Edinboro University’s Scholar of the Year.
  • Jennifer Van Hook - Roy C. Buck Professor of Sociology and Demography at the Pennsylvania State University and non-resident fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. Her research focuses on the socioeconomic integration of immigrants and their children. One strand of her work uses demographic methods to estimate the size, characteristics, and dynamics of the unauthorized foreign-born
  • Andrew Sandoval-Strausz - Associate Professor of History and Director of Latino/a Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. He serves as a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar and as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. His current research analyzes homes, neighborhoods, places of work and play, and the use of public space in order to see how human beings reveal themselves through their built environments. His most recent book is entitled Barrio America: How Latino Immigrants Saved the American City (2019).

"Careful Writing" Writing Contest

Winners Announced April 2020

Tracing the experiences of an extended Irish-American family across the twentieth century, Charming Billy invites us to consider to whom we show care and how we show that care. As Billy navigates relationships with friends, family, and lovers, we as readers might also consider how to show care in ways that sustain ourselves and the objects of our care. Inspired by this ongoing negotiation of human connection, we asked entrants for writing in which someone or something receives care in one of the following categories: Best Short Fiction, Best Nonfiction, Best Poetry, and Best Entry for a Writer under 18.

2020 CALS Graduate Award Symposium

April 10, 2020

CALS celebrated Akash Belsare and Liana Glew, winners of the 2019 CALS Dissertation Fellowship, and Sean Weidman, winner of the 2019 CALS Summer Graduate Fellowship.

An Evening with Alice McDermott

April 16, 2020 - Cancelled

National Book Award-winning novelist Alice McDermott was set to visit and and read from her works, however, the event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.



The Ninth Annual CALS Spring Symposium

**September 14, 2020 (Rescheduled)

Focused on how environments—social, material, ecological, and speculative—influence scholarly and popular conceptions of disability, this year’s spring symposium will showcase nationally prominent scholars alongside Penn State faculty who will examine the symposium topic from various vantage points.  This forum will explore stories of disability in narrative, text, and literature.

 Roundtable One: Disability’s Structured Environments

  • Kathleen Collins, Associate Professor of Education, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Greg Eghigian, Professor of History, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Anita Mannur, Associate Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies, Miami University
  • Janet Lyon, Associate Professor of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Susan Squier, Brill Professor Emeritus of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Benjamin Reiss, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of English, Emory University

Roundtable Two: Disability’s Natural Environments

  • Christian Haines, Assistant Professor of English, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Matthew Cella, Assistant Professor of English, Shippensburg University
  • Wai Chee Dimock, William Lampson Professor of American Studies, Professor of English, Yale University
  • Michael Bérubé, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Maren Linett, Professor of English, Purdue University
  • Kim Hall, Professor of Philosophy, Appalachian State University