Delve Readers Seminars engage readers in exploring challenging books in lively discussion-based seminars led by an experienced scholar.
Each seminar is limited to 16 participants who will complete designated reading in advance and come prepared to discuss the text in an informal, friendly atmosphere. No previous knowledge of the author or text is required. Delve is a perfect combination of a book group and a college English class, but we promise not to assign any essays.
Our traditional Delve seminars meet once a week for 6 weeks. Read below for brief seminar descriptions. Remember to enroll early; each seminar is limited to 16 participants. Seminars are typically held at the Literary Arts event space (925 SW Washington St, Portland) and tuition is $195 unless otherwise noted.
What Is Left Unsaid: Unconventional Storytelling in Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation and Other Contemporary Works by Women
Tuesdays, February 21 – April 4 (No Meeting March 28th) 6:30-8:30 p.m.
“What I try to capture as a writer is the feeling of being alive, of being awake. Because of this, I’m more apt to follow the wisp of a thought or a half-glimpsed image than chart a sequential series of events. But I absolutely believe in momentum. Momentum is not plot, but it has that same quality of urgency and forward motion.” — Jenny Offill
In Jenny Offill’s second novel, Dept. of Speculation, she distills her narrative about new motherhood, an endangered marriage, and a crisis of identity into hundreds of episodic vignettes—some of which are only a sentence long, while others make up the length of a paragraph. For the reader, it feels as if we are delving into a person’s riveting journal that brims with disconnected musings, quotations, trivia, secrets, memories, and experiences. Eventually, a story forms from these juxtaposed fragments, and the space in between them becomes just as important as the prose itself because it invites the reader to draw the necessary connections that deepen the story and propel it forward. How does a writer employ compression and fragmentation while preserving momentum and emotional velocity in a story? What is gained and lost when a writer intentionally sheds storytelling conventions? How do these techniques reflect or enhance (or detract from) the content and themes of the work? Offill’s novel is a slim 177 pages and a fast read, so we will have time to examine shorter works and excerpts by other contemporary women writers who employ similar techniques and explore similar themes such as Mary Robison, Jennifer Egan, Renata Adler, Helen Oyeyemi, Maggie Nelson, Zadie Smith, Lydia Davis, Sandra Cisneros, Dao Strom, and Anne Carson.
Guide: Danielle Frandina is an educator, writer and editor who made Portland her home four years ago. She earned her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts and taught at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, where she chaired the school’s humanities department. Danielle is the founder, curator and host of the Portland reading series Tell It Slant, which is now in its third year collaborating with a variety of communities and venues to feature emerging artists. She is currently working on a collection of personal essays about her hometown and the people in it. Her stories and essays can be found in Numero Cinq, Avalon Magazine, Conceptions Southwest and 1001.
Another Kind of Life: Examining The Short Fiction of John Cheever & James Salter
Mondays, February 27–April 3, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m.
James Salter and John Cheever are widely considered to be masters of the short story. Though wildly different in their approaches, both writers are concerned with the forces—external and internal, seen and unseen—that shape our lives. Whether it’s the catty neighbor at a dinner party or some dark force that calls to us in the night, Cheever and Salter recognized that none of us escape the trials of life, no matter how hard we try (or how much gin we drink).
In this series, we’ll dive into Cheever’s and Salter’s short fiction and examine how their characters are so closely observed and intimately portrayed yet remain universal, how fate seems to lurk in even the smallest gestures, and how their heroes’ and heroines’ desperate attempts to prevent the inevitable reveal the best and worst about humanity. Above all, we’ll take a look at the values their characters adopt in order to survive—their code, their way of living—that either sinks them or pushes them through to a kind of hard-earned grace.
Guide: Jay Clarke is a writer, musician, composer, and former English professor. He holds an MA in English from Oregon State University.
Flannery O’Connor: Everything That Rises Must Converge
Sundays, March 5–April 9, 2017 4:00–6:00 p.m.
Flannery O’Connor died at age 39 with one of the most thoughtful, intriguing, and complex bodies of work in all of American literature. Her obsessions with religion, morality, and the South Gothic are evident in all 32 of her short stories and come into full expression in her posthumously published final collection Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). She said of her work: “The stories are hard, but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism.” Because of the depth and relative difficulty of her writing and ideas, her stories are best read slowly and with intentional focus on themes, setting, and metaphors. This seminar will pull O’Connor’s final collection in close and look at it with a clarifying eye. We will delve deeply into just 1-2 stories each week in order to dissect, discuss, and consider how they intersect and amplify each other and what they can tell us more generally about the world of Flannery O’Connor.
Guide: Sara Guest is an editor and poet. Her previous work has included being an editor for Encyclopaedia Britannica, producer for Harpo Studios (Oprah’s Book Club), and program coordinator for Write Around Portland. She is currently the creative manager for Swaim Strategies. Sara has an MA in English from Case Western Reserve University.
Thomas Pynchon: Mason & Dixon
Tuesdays, March 21–May 2, 2017 7–9 p.m. (no meeting April 11)
Mason & Dixon appeared twenty years ago when Thomas Pynchon’s reputation was largely based on his astonishing Gravity’s Rainbow. In the years since, Mason & Dixon has come to be regarded as perhaps Thomas Pynchon’s masterpiece, and it is a book that readers interested in modern American literature should know better. This post-modernist retelling of the adventures of the two British astronomers who established the Mason-Dixon line expands, in Pynchon’s hands, into a rollickingly inventive, deeply felt reinterpretation of American history. The novel’s abundant creativity—its array of characters, narrative voices, digressive tales, recovered contexts, and beautiful writing—can at times seem bewildering, but it’s clearly the work of a master story-teller who means to encourage his readers to imagine not only the American past but also the American present in new ways.
Guide: Christopher Zinn was educated at Georgetown and New York University. An independent literature scholar, he has taught at Reed College and the Oregon College of Art and Craft. He currently teaches humanities at the Portland Waldorf High School. 2016/2017 marks his tenth season as a Delve Guide.
Inciting the Political Imagination: The Impulse of Martín Espada
Thursdays, April 6–April 20, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m. (three meetings)
What if we lived in a republic of poetry where “the guard at the airport/ will not allow you to leave the country/ until you declaim a poem for her”? What if “this is the year that police revolvers,/ stove-hot, blister the fingers of raging cops”? What if our grief of 9/11 remembered “the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen could squint and almost see their world”? What if your name was a sword (“espada”) and your sword was a pen you wielded to name injustice and praise unseen lives? Delving into The Republic of Poetry and Alabanza (Praise), we will explore the political imagination of Martín Espada and take flight with our own, wielding words to protest a failure of imagination and reaching for, as Einstein said, “imagination [that] embraces the entire world.”
Guide: Poet-dramatist Cindy Williams Gutiérrez draws inspiration from the silent and silenced voices of history and herstory. The 2016 recipient of the inaugural Oregon Literary Fellowship for Writers of Color, Cindy was selected by Poets & Writers Magazine as a 2014 Notable Debut Poet. Her poetry collection, the small claim of bones (Bilingual Press), won second place in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards. Her poems have appeared in Borderlands, CALYX, Crab Orchard Review, Harvard’s Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, UNAM’s Periódico de poesía, Portland Review, Quiddity, and ZYZZYVA and have been anthologized in Basta: 100+ Latinas Against Gender Violence (forthcoming, University of Nevada-Reno) and Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse Press). A founder of Los Porteños, Portland’s Latino writers’ collective, and of el Grupo de ’08, a Northwest collaborative-artists’ salon, Cindy earned an MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program, with concentrations in Mesoamerican poetics and creative collaboration. She has taught poetry through Annie Bloom’s Books, the Attic Institute, Literary Arts’ Delve Readers Seminars, Maryhill Museum of Art Teachers Institute, Oregon Council for Teachers of English, Oregon Poetry Association, and the USM’s Stonecoast MFA Program.
“All the world began with a yes”: Three Novels by Clarice Lispector
Mondays, April 10 – May 1, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m. (four meetings)
Fleeing pogroms during the Russian Civil War, Clarice Lispector’s family immigrated to Brazil when she was only one year old. Over the course of her life, she became one of the most acclaimed literary voices in Brazil. Now, Lispector’s work is undergoing a resurgence in American letters, with New Directions curating new translations of her work. We will read three of these translations of her most famous works: The Passion According to G.H., Água Viva, and The Hour of the Star.
Guide: Kelly Austin has graduate degrees in literature from Claremont, Cambridge, and UCLA. Most recently she taught Modern and Contemporary Latin American Literature at the University of Chicago, focusing on poetry in the Americas and translation studies. She has also led literature seminars for the Illinois Humanities Council’s Odyssey Project, Newberry Library, and the Chicago Humanities Festival.
SOLD OUT! The following seminars are sold out. Please contact Program Specialist Dao Strom at email@example.com to be added to a waitlist.
David Foster Wallace: Short[-er][-ish] Works
Wednesdays, March 1–April 5, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Where in previous seminars Delvers have tackled the encyclopedic novel Infinite Jest, this one will focus on a small selection of David Foster Wallace’s short stories and essays. In sampling from and hopscotching through his major prose collections—Girl With Curious Hair, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Consider the Lobster, Oblivion—we’ll get much more than the trace of a single writer’s career. While it’s true that many consider Wallace’s novels to be among the most important work written in the United States over past thirty years, some of his most resonant insight into what it means to be human is found in his shorter prose work.
Guide: Trevor Dodge is the author of three collections of short fiction (Ruiner, The Laws of Average and Everyone I Know Lives On Roads), a novella (Yellow #10), and collaborator on the writing anti-textbook Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Writing. His most recent work has appeared in The Butter, Little Fiction, Hobart, and Western Humanities Review. Trevor studied with David Foster Wallace in Illinois State University’s graduate program from 1996-1998, and now teaches writing, literature, and comics studies at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City.
Simone de Beauvoir: The Second Sex
Saturdays, March 4–25, 2017 10:30 a.m. –12:30 p.m. (four meetings)
“I hesitated a long time before writing a book on woman. The subject is irritating, especially for women; and it is not new. Enough ink has flowed over the quarrel about feminism; it is now almost over: let’s not talk about it anymore. Yet it is still being talked about. And the volume of idiocies churned out over this past century do not seem to have clarified the problem.” Thus begins Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 opus The Second Sex, a work that helped spur second wave feminism and inspired Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique.
In this seminar, we will read the newer unabridged translation cover to cover in order to follow de Beauvoir’s full investigations into the notion of the feminine and women philosophically, biologically, historically, religiously, socially, and on, exploring the writing that sought to correct for the paucity of books on women actually written by women, and served as a lightning rod so many works to come.
Guide: Satya Doyle Byock is a Jungian psychotherapist in private practice in downtown Portland. Her previous Delve Seminars have included Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces and Carl Jung’s Red Book. Her essays and nonfiction have been published in Psychological Perspectives, Oregon Humanities, The Hairpin, and elsewhere. Her essay “Going Astray” was listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays, 2015.
Contact Delve Program Specialist Dao Strom at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.