When English teacher Lindsay Hodgman gets a few moments of free time, she does what English teachers do: hops in the car and heads up and down the state and beyond to attend live events featuring her favorite writers. It was during one of these literary trips that Lindsay and a colleague cooked up the idea to try to bring this experience to her students and the wider Walker's community. This fall, Walker's English Department debuted the Visiting Writers Seminar – a unique new course that focuses on living writers who are making an impact on the world with their words. The first featured author will be acclaimed essayist and non-fiction writer, Anne Fadiman, who will be on campus on Wednesday, December 13, for a broad range of interactions with students, culminating in an all-community reception and reading. RSVP Online
"Our goal in creating this class is to inspire an even deeper love of learning (and reading!) at our school," says Lindsay. In addition, the course fits into a broader strategic vision that Head of School Dr. Meera Viswanathan has laid out for "active, authentic learning at the heart of the student experience."
Throughout the semester, students will read three of Anne Fadiman's books and critically engage with them before she arrives on campus. During this visit, Anne will teach master classes, conduct writing workshops, and participate in class discussions. Among the books students are studying is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Lindsay says that she was drawn to the work of "literary journalism" even though she is usually inclined toward fiction and poetry.
"The content of Spirit raises questions of politics, philosophy, culture, and ethics. In short, one could endlessly discuss this book. For me, the first step in teaching a dynamic and deep English class is selecting course texts that are thought-provoking and well written," says Lindsay.
Reading books like these, the English Department members hopes, will inspire a lifelong love of literature – and perhaps help aspiring writers. "We want our students to write very well, of course, and learning about the writing process will help, but we also want them to understand the full dimensions of inspiration, craft, revision and publication," says Catherine Reed, English Department chair. "Naturally, our hope is that some of our own talented writers will imagine a life in writing. At the very least, they will have a deep and lasting sense of a single author's style, wisdom that will stand them in good stead across disciplines."
Lindsay says she is enthusiastically awaiting Anne's December visit – and the students are ready, too. "I'm eager to see what the students ask her - they're already compiling a list of questions, how they interact with her, what ideas they glean from her," she says. "I'm also eager to see what Anne takes away from our class. I know that our students will ask sharp questions and make keen observations. It will be hard to find an audience that is more prepared than we will be."