Saturday, November 25, 2023

Register for "Known & Unknown Worlds: Fictions of the 21st Century" with Phil Weinstein

REGISTER ONLINE or by calling the library.

Beginning in January, Philip Weinstein, the Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of Literature at Swarthmore College, will present a nine-part seminar, Known and Unknown Worlds: Fictions of the 21st Century. 

Programs will be held online via Zoom twice monthly from 6pm - 7:30pm, beginning Thursday January 18th (subsequent sessions will be on Wednesday evenings). Prior to the first class in January, registered participants will receive a welcome email with Zoom access information.  A limited number of copies of the books will be available for pickup at the library, or can be requested through CLAMS. All sessions will be recorded.

Additional course description, readings, and class dates appear below.


What might be a central tenet drawing together the six novels I have chosen for my next course at the Vineyard Haven Library? A syllabus comprised of Franzen's The Corrections, Sebald's Austerlitz, Jones's The Known World, Egan's A Visit from the Good Squad, Patchett's The Dutch House, and McCann's Apeirogon looks more like an out-of-control enterprise: these writers are so different from each other!

My candid answer is that no common theme or procedure joins together these six books. Rather, I find them the most resonant novels published (in English) in the 1st two decades of our new century. It's too early to call them classics, but (like classics) they stay in the mind long after an initial reading. The impression they make--on this reader at least--is intricate, powerful, lingering. With the exception of The Dutch House, each is difficult to categorize. Indeed, Austerlitz, The Known World, and Apeirogon escape all familiar novelistic frameworks. The Corrections and A Visit from The Goon Squad operate in more recognizable territory, but both are capable of startling you. As for The Dutch House, it is, while neither unfamiliar nor surprising, simply perfect.

We will devote two sessions each to the three longer novels (The Corrections, The Known World, Apeirogon), and a single session each to the three others. I cannot predict what you will come away with, but I can say this: together, they comprise an unforgettable set of readings. Rather than expertise--who is an expert on 21st century fiction?--I shall offer what guidance I can. A remarkable experience--in equal measures challenging and rewarding--lies ahead.

Dates and reading assignments:

Thursday Jan 18 2024: Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections (1st of 2 sessions)

Wednesday Jan 31 2024: Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

Wednesday Feb 14 2024: W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

Wednesday Feb 28 2024: Edward P Jones, The Known World (1st of 2 sessions)

Wednesday Mar 13 2024: Edward P Jones, The Known World

Wednesday Mar 27 2024: Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Wednesday Apr 10 2024: Ann Patchett, The Dutch House

Wednesday Apr 24 2024: Colum McCann, Apeirogon (1st of 2 sessions)

Wednesday May 8 2024: Colum McCann, Apeirogon

Philip M. Weinstein is Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English Emeritus at Swarthmore College. His numerous publications include Faulkner’s Subject: A Cosmos No One Owns (1992), What Else But Love? The Ordeal of Race in Faulkner and Morrison (1996), and Becoming Faulkner (2009). His newest book is a collection of essays entitled Soul-Error, published in May 2022. Professor Weinstein has been offering literary seminars in cooperation with the Vineyard Haven Public Library since 2012, and is the Honorary Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign for Vineyard Haven Library's expansion and renovation project.

REGISTER ONLINE or by calling the library.

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