discussion programs

What America Reads

The mass appeal of many fiction best-sellers seems to come from the combination of mythic characters and realistic, historically identifiable settings. These five novels, published between 1852 and 1971, are united not only by their reliance on a sense of place but also by the similarity of their myth making.

The Nation That Works

“The Nation That Works” focuses on the workplace—an area that brings Americans of disparate communities and backgrounds together because of economic need and occupational goals. “We live in neighborhoods separated by race, ethnicity and class, but we meet in the workplace, and our working lives are knit by small but symbolically resonant stories of nurturing and competition, support and betrayal, trust and fear,” said Valerie Smith, project advisor and professor of English at UCLA.

The Many Realms of King Arthur

Whether it’s Walt Disney or Monty Python, a Broadway musical or a bestselling book, the myth of King Arthur still holds sway in our culture today. Told as a religious quest, a love triangle, a tale of chivalry, a bawdy romp—this classic story still fascinates artists of every medium.

But it is in the realm of literature that perhaps the greatest variation on the Arthurian tale is to be found. This series explores some of the many different forms this story has taken over the centuries and looks at why it continues to both fascinate and instruct.

The Journey Inward

Bookstores, libraries, and newsstands are filled with the autobiographies of the rich and famous, of the heroic and brave, and of the historic and contemporary personalities that form our world. At one time or another, we all have gotten hooked on autobiographies. We enjoy reading the life stories of provocative people. We want to experience their triumphs and their disappointments. We want to meet the people they know and to learn the hows and whys of their lives.

Sovereign Worlds

Manifesto, history, and fiction collide in this series to present a multi-layered view of the condition of Native Americans. Eye-opening and thought-provoking, this series will teach you more about Native Americans than you ever learned in school.

One Vision, Many Voices

This series explores the diversity within the writings of those whose linguistic and cultural heritage stems from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other Spanish-speaking Central and South American countries.

Not for Children Only

This series offers new and old classics of children’s literature, along with a brief history of how writing for children has evolved over time.

New American Worlds

The search for the Earthly Paradise, a better life, perfect happiness—all of these have affected the nations and peoples of our hemisphere. And it is those hopes (and often the resulting disillusionments), that inform much of the epic fiction of the Western Hemisphere.

A Mind of Her Own

“I carried her in my arms,” Tevye sighs as another daughter goes her own way—and so begins a modern literary tradition of Jewish fathers and daughters who get carried away with politics, money, sex, religion, and, above all, one another.

Liberty and Violence

To many Americans, the French Revolution is but a distant memory of a barbaric time marked by brutal violence and bearing little relevance to 20th Century life. Yet many of the principles and ideals at the heart of the 1789 uprising are very much alive today. Was the Revolution one of history’s noblest moments, or one of its most atrocious? And what of the dual legacy of liberty and violence left to us today, more than 200 years later? Is contemporary society any more virtuous or less vicious than its forbearers in its zealous pursuit of liberty?

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