Marianne Noble, Fall 2009
In Capital Letters: Could you give us some history about the colloquium?
Marianne Noble: About eight or nine years ago, a couple of us were sitting around in the Lit Lounge. One of the people, a lit major named Adam Good, mentioned that the Philosophy Department has a colloquium every year, and at least in part because it is for credit, a lot of people choose to participate, doing the reading, attending the event, and writing papers. That sounded like a really great idea for Literature to try. We thought about how it would be fantastic to create an event whose goal was for everyone in the community to come together with the common goal of discussing a really good book: one that was intrinsically worthy of a whole day's attention, one where we could really get deeply into the issues raised by a terrific book.
The first year, we resolved that the colloquium would also be organized by a committee that blended lit majors, grad students, and faculty. We talked about a whole bunch of books, and then we selected Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie. It fit all the criteria: it was extremely deep. It was an important book. There was an infinite amount we could learn from it. Its author has been politically significant. That first colloquium was great. We had an amazing turnout, and many of us were thrilled to read such a substantial book and share to learn about it. We also inaugurated a tradition of having breakfast and lunch for all participants. We enjoyed fantastic Indian food.
The next year, we picked Dracula. This text clearly did not have the same weight as Midnight's Children, but there was a lot to talk about, and the discussion grew quite deep. Everyone really enjoyed that novel, and we did not regret choosing a book that was not of the same intellectual stature as MIdnight's Children. We ate ribs that year, in an effort to keep with themed food, and we all laughed our heads off about that choice.
Subsequent colloquia have read: Black Boy by Richard Wright; Disgrace by J. M. Coezee; The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov; The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera; and now Fun Home.
ICL: Why did you choose Alison Bechdel and in particular her graphic novel Fun Home for the colloquium this year?
MN: Fun Home represents a change for the colloquium in many ways. Above all, the author will be attending and will be part of the event. By partnering with the Visiting Writers Series, we will truly promote the primary goal of the colloquium, which is to bring the entire department together through the shared appreciation of a great literary work. All segments of the department, from freshmen through graduate students, alumni, and faculty, will be coming together for this event. It is also our first non-fiction work, and of course, our first foray in the graphic novel genre. There has been an enormous outpouring of enthusiasm for this text, which was selected by overwhelming acclaim from the Colloquium committee. I am pretty sure that this is going to be our best colloquium ever, and I hope that we will partner up with the Visiting Writers Series in future colloquia.