Scranton Seen as ‘Perfect Venue’ to Explore Ethnic Transformations of Cities

Mar 9, 2010
   The culturally rich history of Scranton will provide the backdrop for a national conference of a society that studies multi-ethnic literature of The United States. 
        The 24th MELUS Conference, a four-day literature convention featuring a multitude of educational panels, workshops, readings and plenary speakers, including Jay Parini, Ph.D., Marilyn Chin, Sonia Sanchez, Ph.D., and Dara Horn, Ph.D., will be held at The University of Scranton April 8-11.
        Rich in tradition, the city of Scranton offers an ideal setting for members of MELUS — formally known as The Society for 
the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature
of the United States — to examine how people write imaginatively about the experiences of ethnic people. 
        More than 200 people are expected to attend, and many of the conference’s activities will center on the event’s theme, “Ethnic Transformation in the Self and the City.”
         “If you give yourself two hours to walk around Scranton, you will get a good sense of the city, the waves of immigration and rebuilding, and the connections to labor — plus, the whole notion of electricity,” said Joseph Kraus, Ph.D., professor of English and theater at The University of Scranton. “I am really excited about what we can accomplish here. I think Scranton is the perfect venue for a conference like this.”
        While other cities have rebranded themselves through time, often becoming detached from their pasts, Kraus applauded Scranton’s strong connection to its heritage, adding, “the city’s immigrant history is written in its architecture.”
         For scholars of ethnic literature, American cities — especially smaller cities — stand as historical texts, reflecting the immigrant experience and the development of their distinct communities. 
        The conference will begin with a reception in Brennan Hall Thursday, April 8, with welcoming remarks from Harold Baillie, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs at The University of Scranton.
        On Friday, April 9, Dr. Parini will host the first of three plenary sessions with a reading at the Moscovitz Theater in the DeNaples Center at 6:45 p.m. Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., president of The University of Scranton, will provide an introduction. Dr. Parini, a Scranton native, is a poet, novelist and critic. His reading is free and open to the public, as are all three plenary sessions.
        On April 10, professor Chin and Dr. Sanchez will host the second plenary session discussing the role of poetry in Ethnic-American Literature at the Moscovitz Theater in the DeNaples Center at 2 p.m. Chin, an American poet whose family immigrated from Hong Kong, often focuses on social issues, especially those related to Asian American feminism and bi-cultural identity. Dr. Sanchez is an African American poet most often associated with the Black Arts Movement. In addition to authoring a dozen books of poetry, Dr. Sanchez has penned several plays and children's books.
        Chin and Dr. Sanchez will also perform a poetry reading at Marywood University Friday, April 9, at 8 p.m. as part of a University of Scranton/Marywood University cooperative grant. The event is free and open to the public.
        On April 11, Dr. Horn, an American novelist, will read at the Houlihan-McLean Center at 8:30 p.m. as part of the conference’s final plenary session. Dr. Horn’s session is presented by a grant from the Weinberg Judaic Studies Institute at the University of Scranton, and is also part of the program’s Spring Lecture.
        Recognized by Granta magazine as one of the Best Young American Novelists, Dr. Horn has published several novels, including All Other Nights in 2009, which was selected as an Editors’ Choice in the New York Times Book Review. 
        “Horn’s writing is accessible to people and, once you hear her read, you’re going to want to read her work. She is a great young writer who is full of energy,” said Dr. Kraus.
        Founded in 1973, MELUS’ mission is to expand the definition of American literature through the study and teaching of Latino American, Native American, African American, Asian and Pacific American, and ethnically specific Euro-American literary works, their authors and their cultural contexts. MELUS has held a national conference annually every April at various sites across the country.
       For more information on the MELUS Conference, contact Dr. Kraus at 941-6331 or
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