First American Book Review author of 2009 to discuss importance of teaching literature

Most people think they know how to read literature.

Marjorie Perloff

But author and poetry critic Marjorie Perloff said reading literature is a unique skill that must be taught. She will discuss the idea during her speech, “Why Teach Literature Anyway?,” at the first installment of the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review 2009 Spring Reading Series.

The presentation will begin at noon Jan. 22 in the Alcorn Auditorium of UHV’s University West building, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. The public is invited to attend, and light refreshments will be served.

Most people know how to read materials like newspapers, magazines, Web sites and computer manuals, Perloff explained.

“We read it once for information, and when we have the information we want, we don’t have to read it again,” she said. “Literature really requires re-reading. You are always going to find new things each time.”

Reading literature is a skill that sadly isn’t being taught in many educational institutions these days, she said.

Perloff hopes to keep the session friendly and informal, and wants audience members to ask many questions.

“This is a very pressing topic as all of us look for new ways to improve the quality of our educational system,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, editor/publisher of the American Book Review and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “Anyone with a vested interest in education will find this a fascinating, thought-provoking presentation.”

Perloff is the Sadie D. Patek Professor Emerita of Humanities at Stanford University and scholar-in-residence at the University of Southern California. She teaches courses and writes about 20th and 21st century poetry and poetics.

She has been a frequent reviewer for periodicals ranging from The Washington Post to major scholarly journals. She has lectured at most major universities in the U.S. and at European, Asian, and Latin American universities and festivals. Perloff has held Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Humanities and Huntington fellowships.

In 2006, she served as president of the Modern Language Association. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and recently was named Honorary Foreign Professor at the Beijing Modern Languages University. She received an honorary degree from Bard College in New York in May. This spring, she will deliver the Weidenfeld Lectures in Comparative Literature at Oxford University in Great Britain.

Perloff is the author of 14 books, including “Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy,” which won the Robert Penn Warren Prize for literary criticism in 2005. She also has edited a number of collections, including “John Cage, Composed in America.”

ABR is a nonprofit, internationally distributed literary journal that champions works by small presses. Founded in 1977, the journal moved to UHV in 2007. It has a circulation of about 8,000.

Other speakers in the Spring Reading Series include:

  • Michael Martone, Feb. 19 – Martone is the author of eight works of fiction, including “Double-wide: Collected Fiction of Michael Martone,” “The Blue Guide to Indiana” and “Michael Martone;” two collections of nonfiction; and six edited volumes. He was awarded the 1998 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction for “The Flatness and Other Landscapes.”
  • John O’Brien, March 12 – O’Brien founded the Review of Contemporary Fiction in 1980. Three years later, he established the Dalkey Archive Press, which publishes books of fiction, poetry, criticism and biography. The press’s English translation of “Voices from Chernobyl” received the National Book Critics Circle Award in the general nonfiction category.
  • Zulfikar Ghose, April 2 – Ghose is a novelist, poet, short-story writer, autobiographer, journalist, educationalist, essayist and literary critic. He was born in Pakistan in 1935, grew up in British India and emigrated to England in 1952. He now lives in Austin. He has published 12 novels, including his most recent, “The Triple Mirror of the Self.” He also is the author of two story collections, an autobiography, six volumes of poetry and four books of literary criticism.
  • Ana Castillo, April 30 – Castillo is a celebrated poet, novelist, short story writer and essayist. Renowned Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya has referred to Castillo as “one of our finest Chicana novelists.” Castillo has published numerous books, including “The Mixquiahuala Letters,” for which she received the Before Columbia Foundation’s American Book Award in 1987. Her most recent work, “The Guardians: A Novel,” was published in 2007 and tracks the lives of Mexicans who illegally cross to the U.S. to work.

For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call Charles Alcorn, ABR managing editor, at 361-570-4100 or go to

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Thomas Doyle 361-570-4342