Jewish Literature Live Series Premieres Jan. 24

Tony Kushner will speak at GW April 9.
“Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner among visiting artists to give free readings at GW this semester.
January 16, 2013

This spring, two Oscar-nominated screenwriters and a New York Times bestselling author will be among the visiting artists in the Jewish Literature Live series, part of George Washington University’s Department of English.

The course will directly connect students with six Jewish American writers— including bestselling author Jami Attenberg and “Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner—followed by a free public reading in the evening. It is supported by GW trustee David Bruce Smith, B.A. ’79.

Other visiting artists include authors Bruce Jay Friedman, David Bezmozgis, Nathan Englander and Lisa Zeidner, who kicks off the series on Jan. 24.

The course, taught by Professor of English Faye Moskowitz, began in 2008 with a donation from Mr. Smith to George Washington’s English Department.

Finding authors can be a challenge, said Ms. Moskowitz, who begins her search a year in advance by reading “every single thing I can find on who’s writing what.” She selects emerging and established authors who address issues of Jewish life in America. Ms. Moskowitz is aided this year by two student assistants, juniors Justin Solar and Samantha Yakas, who are publicizing the series on Twitter and Facebook.

To prepare for the classroom visits, each student reads and discusses the author’s book, writes 10 questions for the authors and crafts a personal response about their experience meeting the author and having their questions answered.

Ms. Attenberg’s novel “The Middlesteins,” which debuted as number 25 on the New York Times bestseller list, was featured on the Dec. 27 cover of the New York Times Book Review. She will visit campus on Feb. 7.

“For any author, the New York Times Book Review cover is an incredible boost, and she is an emerging writer, so she’s ecstatic—and of course so am I for having the wit to invite her long ago,” said Ms. Moskowtiz.

Ms. Moskowitz calls Mr. Friedman, a novelist, actor and Oscar-nominated screenwriter for the 1984 film “Splash,” a “venerable” author, noting that he is in his early 80s.

“I like to introduce a new generation of kids to authors like Friedman, who are thankfully still alive and able to talk to students,” she said. Mr. Friedman will speak on Feb. 21.

Mr. Bezmozgis, a past candidate for the university’s Jenny McKean Moore Fellowship, was included in the New Yorker’s 2010 “20 Under 40” issue, which lists the 20 most promising fiction writers under the age of 40. He will speak about his latest novel, “The Free World,” at GW on March 19.

Mr. Kushner’s appearance on April 9, which will focus on his Pultizer Prize-winning play “Angels in America,” is “the centerpiece” of this spring’s series. “Kushner is someone that people want very much right now because ‘Lincoln’ is such a big hit,” said Ms. Moskowitz. “So getting him was a coup, even before we knew about how successful the movie would be.”

A series of free campus events titled “Tony Kushner Live” will mark Mr. Kushner’s visit.

From Feb. 6 to May 2, the George Washington Department of English and the American Studies Film Club will present the film series “ACTING UP: Queer Film and Video in the Time of AIDS.” The series will include screenings of nine films that chronicle the AIDS epidemic from the late 1980s to the end of the 20th century, as well as introductions and discussions lead by faculty and graduate students from GW, University of Maryland, College Park and Georgetown University. Click here for a list of films.

Between Feb. 8 and April 12, students in George Washington’s Department of Theatre and Dance will reenact key scenes of Mr. Kushner’s plays in “Reading Kushner,” a four-session workshop series that will explore four key Kushner plays, including “Homebody/Kabul,” “Caroline, Or Change” and both parts of “Angels in America.” The workshops will be led by GW faculty and graduate students. Click here for a list of sessions.

Other events include a lecture by GW Professor of English Robert Combs on the historical cross-currents that have shaped Mr. Kushner’s major works on March 28; and performances of scenes from Mr. Kushner’s plays by students from the Department of Theatre and Dance on March 1. In December, the Department of Theatre and Dance hosted a Kushner Performance Festival, directing and performing scenes from several of his plays.

“We wanted to accentuate Kushner’s visit by creating a series of events that evoke the key cultural and historical concerns illustrated in his works,” said Ramzi Fawaz, program coordinator for Tony Kushner Live and a postdoctoral fellow in GW’s Department of American Studies. “With these events, I think we have an amazing variety to offer the GW and D.C. community.”

Click here for more information on the Jewish Literature Live series.