Penn's Kelly Writers House Announces Spring 2012 Fellows

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | | 215-898-6460October 18, 2011

PHILADELPHIA – Three acclaimed writers have been tapped to serve as Spring 2012 Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House.

Performance artist Karen Finley will visit Penn’s campus Feb. 13-14, poet Ron Silliman March 19-20 and American postmodern novelist John Barth April 23-24 for evening readings and informal teaching sessions with young writers, aspiring writers and writer-critics.

Finley is one of four performance artists whose grants from the National Endowment for the Arts were vetoed in 1990 after condemnation by U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms over "decency" issues. Despite an unsuccessful lawsuit by the "NEA Four," Finley was awarded a grant the following year.  She has presented her visual art, performances and plays internationally. Finley is author of many books, including A Different Kind of Intimacy, George & Martha and Shock Treatment.

Silliman has been crucial to the changing scope of contemporary American poetry for more than 40 years.  A founder of the Language poetry movement, he established the concept of "the new sentence."  His  first book, Crow, was published in 1971. Silliman has written and edited more than 30 books, including a memoir, Under Albany (2004), which was named a book of the year by Small Press Traffi.  His 26-part poem The Alphabet was written continuously between 1979 and 2004.  He was a Pew Fellow in the Arts in 1998, a 2002 Fellow of the Pennsylvania Arts Council, a 2003 Literary Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and the 2006 Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere.

Barth's legacy of experimental fiction has earned him a dedicated following of readers in a career that has spanned seven decades.  His self-conscious, self-parodying writing acknowledges its own fixation on meta-narrative.

Barth's first novel, The Floating Opera (1957), was nominated for the National Book Award. He was nominated again for his 1968 story collection, Lost in the Funhouse, and he won the National Book Award in 1973 for his collection of postmodern novellas, Chimera.  In 1997, he won the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Fiction, and in 1998 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

During the visit of each Fellow, a reading will take place at Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk, on Monday at 6:30 p.m. On Tuesday at 10 a.m. the Writers House will host a brunch followed by a one-hour public interview/conversation. Attendance for both programs is by reservation only. RSVPs may be addressed to

Both programs will be broadcast live worldwide on KWH-TV and both of the Monday and Tuesday programs will be streamed live on the web.

In the Writers House Fellows Seminar, students will study the work of all three Fellows. The course is taught by Al Filreis, a Penn professor of English and faculty director of Kelly Writers House.  This year's coordinator of the program is Jamie-Lee Josselyn.

The course description, syllabi from previous years, images and bios of this year’s Fellows and past Fellows, as well as links to archived readings and webcasts, are available at