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What America Reads: Myth Making in Popular Fiction
"Let's Talk About It, Oklahoma" Series at Oklahoma City University, Winter 2011 What makes us respond so powerfully to certain novels that we make them bestsellers? In these novels, we find characters who achieve mythic status—Scarlett O'Hara, Shane—and yet many capture a significant historical era. Perhaps their mass appeal comes from the combination of mythic characters and realistic, historically identifiable settings. The four novels in this series all reflect in different ways a basic split in the American psyche in how we see domestic life—the idea of home—as embodying humanity's greatest virtues or as representing an impediment to individual freedom. In epic proportions, the books dramatize our yearning to be a Huck Finn lighting out for the territory and thus avoiding civilization, but at the same time we hunger for the stability and sense of shared experience associated with traditional family life. The settings of these novels also recall kernel events in our national psyche, from the Civil War to the American West. That three of the books have been made into classic American films reinforces the sense of their popularity and grandeur. If you want to come aboard and explore the maverick characters at the center of these readings, please join us for this "Let's Talk About It, Oklahoma" reading and discussion series. We will begin with Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 blockbuster, Gone with the Wind, continue with John Schaefer’s classic western, Shane, James Jones’ epic war story, From Here to Eternity, and conclude with John MacDonald’s A Tan and Sandy Silence, a part of his popular Travis McGee series.
The Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature at Oklahoma City University invites participants to make these books come alive in the readings of this four-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone will come together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to pre-register and borrow the reading selections by calling Harbour Winn at 208-5472, emailing him at email@example.com, or dropping by the Dulaney-Browne Library, Room 211 or 207. (Note the office is located in the five-story building southwest of Walker Center, and OCU will be closed Dec. 22-Jan. 3.) Please check out books IF you plan to attend the series. Information can also be found on the web site of the Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature: www.okcu.edu/film-lit/ To read the theme brochure, you must now go to the website of the Oklahoma Humanities Council, where you can print it for yourself too: http://www.okhumanitiescouncil.org/Websites/ohc/Images/Programs/LTAIO/what_america_reads.pdf
The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning January 18 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through March 1. Books, services, and other materials for this series of programs are provided by the statewide "Let's Talk About It, Oklahoma," project of the Oklahoma Humanities Council with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This series is also funded by a grant from Kirkpatrick Family Fund.
READINGS AND DATES1/18/2010 Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind
Poets, novelists, film directors, and others have drawn on the story of the Civil War to create new works or to reinterpret old ones. Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind reigns as perhaps the most enduring best seller of all time. This epic narrative represents many things to many readers about the antebellum South, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the role of women in southern society. Allow the ghosts of Scarlett and Rhett to launch our series theme!
2/1/2011 Jack Schaefer's Shane
Schaefer’s Shane perhaps represents the quintessential American vision of the Old West, a nostalgia that continues to reverberate today in our ethos. Come again to the setting of the isolated farm against a vast plain, a sagebrush-strewn main street, the swinging doors of a saloon; come again to the landscape of myth out of which rides Shane into the soul of young Bob Starrett, our narrator.
2/15/2011 James Jones's From Here to Eternity
National Book Award winner and a tumultuous novel of World War II, Jones’ book penetrates truths about a world inhabited by soldiers and the women they love and explores man and violence, rage and glory, idealism and despair. No matter if you have read the book before or seen the film, come hear Private Robert E. Lee play “Taps” on his bugle like it has never been played before; let its notes linger within you as they do for all the other dog soldiers.
3/1/2011 John D MacDonald's A Tan and Sandy Silence
MacDonald’s Travis McGee represents popular literature’s enduring nonconformist: “a refugee from a plastic structured culture, uninsured, unadjusted, unconventional.” When foul play strikes and someone is in need, Travis leaves his Florida houseboat to solve the problems.
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