2007 Community Read

The Center for American Literary Studies, the Institute for Arts and Humanities, and the Office of the Penn State Vice Provost for Educational Equity present

The Center for American Literary Studies
Community Read 2007

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

In 2007, the Center for American Literary Studies announced the first in a series of "Community Reads" on the Penn Sate campus. The American novel at the heart of the "Community Read" for the Spring term of 2007 was The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead--a volume chosen by our distinguished Paterno Family Professor of Literature, Michael Bérubé. The Community Read culminated in a gala lecture by Professor Bérubé featuring a response by Colson Whitehead himself.

About the Novel

The Intuitionist is a thought-provoking consideration of power, morality, politics, and race through the quirky world of elevator inspectors in a major American metropolis. In Whitehead's city, the elevator inspectors divide into two distinct camps-the Empiricists who inspect elevators by carefully examining and testing every bolt and switch with scientific precision, and the Intuitionists who inspect elevators by instinctively sensing their operations. The book focuses on Lila Mae Watson, the city's first black female inspector, an Intuitionist with a perfect inspection record. Lila Mae is NEVER wrong. When an elevator that she deems fit for service suddenly plunges sixty stories, she is forced to solve the mystery herself in order to clear her name. The Intuitionist is a fascinating industrial mystery that manages to weave Lila Mae's quest into a profound, and very funny, commentary on issues of race and questions of how we know what we know--or think we know.