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Humanities Planning Group Calendar

Book Reading

TREAT book cover

Seattle author, professor and lecturer John Treat. ©Steve Shelton Images
©Steve Shelton Images
Dr. John Whittier Treat
Professor [Emeritus]
Yale University

January 28, 2016
Honors Hall Lounge
5:30 p.m.

John Whittier Treat, professor emeritus of Japanese from Yale University, is one of the most influential Japanese studies scholars of his generation. After almost three decades of teaching and publishing on Japan, he took an early retirement to more fully pursue his career as a creative writer. The Rise and Fall of the Yellow House, his first novel, crystallizes the life for gay men in the 1980s, intertwining issues of love and the exploration of new relationships with the fear of AIDS. The stresses of love, drugs, travel between New York and Seattle, and health concerns created a strange brew that drives the narrative from beginning to end. Yellow House is a searching, questioning, and introspective depiction of one dimension of LGBTQ culture set in a decade when open discussions of what it was like to be gay were only just beginning to seep into mainstream discourse and precisely when the dreaded scourge of AIDS was a constant topic in the news.

Book Synopsis:

Seattle, 1983. Frightened by the growing epidemic that has stricken his friends, Jeff flees New York for the Pacific Northwest, only to realize AIDS has a foothold in his new home. As he distracts himself with alcohol and one-night stands, Jeff meets Henry, an alluring younger man with a weakness for heroin. Despite the jarring contrasts in their personalities and backgrounds, the two are drawn inexorably together. But as their love develops, so do numerous complications. In an effort to halt their freefall into addiction, Jeff and Henry move in with Nan, a middle-aged divorcée who has turned her home into a sanctuary for gay men in crisis. The Rise and Fall of the Yellow House revisits the early years of AIDS in the Northwest with vivid detail, unrelenting honesty, and a profound compassion for a generation lost to the plague.

A reception will follow the reading.

BIO:  John Whittier Treat

John Whittier Treat has set a standard in his scholarship for thorough and voluminous studies of the modern era in Japan.  His path-breaking work, Writing Ground Zero: Japanese Literature and the Atomic Bomb (1996; University of Chicago Press), confronting postwar Japanese literary studies with a candor seldom seen in Asian Studies, is the first full-fledged English-language treatment of the nuclear issue in Japanese literature.  In it, Treat is equally at home in his discussions of contemporary poetry as he is with his analysis of blockbuster novels by Oe Kenzaburo, Ibuse Masuji, and Oda Makoto.  The connection he draws between the atomic aftermath in Japan and literature of the Jewish holocaust was unprecedented.  Treat’s other scholarly works include Pools of Water, Pillars of Fire (1988; University of Washington Press), Great Mirrors Shattered: Homosexuality, Orientalism and Japan (1999; Oxford University Press), and Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture (1996; Routledge).  Words such as “painstaking” and “thorough command of the subject matter” are frequent refrains of those who have evaluated the work of Dr. Treat.  They confirm his status as, arguably, the dominant voice on modern Japanese literature writing in the past three decades.  John spent much time on the east coast, graduating from Amherst and taking his PhD at Yale, eventually returning to Yale as a professor.  He also has ties to the Pacifi9c Northwest, having taught for many years at the University of Washington.  He recently returned to Seattle to settle there following his retirement from academia.  We are pleased to consider him among the great writers in our region.


Book Reading/Book Signing

KUO cover photo BOOK








Dr. Alex Kuo
Professor [Emeritus]
Department of English

November 16, 2015
Goertzen 21
5:30 p.m.

Dr. Alex Kuo will return to the WSU campus to read from his most recent book, “Triple Shanghai.”  This reading is included in the Honors College Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series and is sponsored by the Humanities Planning Group.  Following the reading, the Bookie will have several of Dr. Kuo’s other writings for sale and Dr. Kuo will be available to sign books.

This event is being co-sponsored by the Humanities Planning Group; the Honors College; the College of Arts and Sciences; the Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Center; Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies; the Department of English; and the Department of Foreign Languages and Culture.

BIO:  Alex Kuo

Alex Kuo is arguably the most illustrious creative writer to have taught at WSU. Educated in the prestigious University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, considered the leading institution for creative writing in the United States, as well as Knox College in Illinois, Alex Kuo is professor emeritus of creative writing in the English Department at WSU. While here, he trained some of the leading writers in the Pacific Northwest including Sherman Alexie, Joan Fox, Joseph McGeshick, Yvonne Higgins Leach, Chris Forhan, Sara Nickerson, Kim Fay, and Valerie Vogrin. The author of five poetry collections, two books of short stories, three novels and a volume of essays, Kuo is a creative voice of great renown who has served as writer in residence or reader at Bread Loaf, Centrum, Bumbershoot, Elliott Bay Book Company, and the Universities of Chicago, Massachusetts, Iowa, Virginia, Oregon, and Wisconsin. He has been the recipient of three awards from the National Endowment for the Arts. He also has held a Fulbright professorship, a Lingnan Professorship, and a Rockefeller Foundation Bellaggio Residency. His collection, Lipstick and Other Stories, won the American Book Award in 2002.

More than 350 of his essays, articles, short stories, photographs, poems and other creative works have appeared in nearly all of the leading literary journals and magazines in North America. Alex taught at WSU from 1979 until his retirement three years ago. Before that, he served for five years as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and taught at various other universities. He has held visiting positions at Jilin University, Peking University, Beijing Forestry University, Fudan University, Knox College, Hong Kong Baptist University, and elsewhere. A tireless excavator of the human psyche, Alex Kuo’s work is noted for its hybrid quality and for its depiction of the interstices that exist between Asian and Asian American identity. Alex was born in Boston, but he spent most of his early years in war-torn China. As an adult, he has cumulatively spent a great deal of time back in China. His mixture of life experiences, living on the East Coast, in the Midwest, and in the Pacific Northwest, as well as East Asia, has had a profound and positive effect on shaping his unique style. Alex is married to Joan Burbick, professor emerita in English at Washington State University. It is always a treat to host an author who will read from her or his work. It is a singular opportunity to do so for one of our own. Alex Kuo represents the best in what we have to offer in the humanities at WSU. It is a great honor to have this chance to listen to him read.





MARK YOUR CALENDARS – April 11-15, 2016

We have set the dates for next year’s Humanities Week — April 11-15, 2016.  Keynote speaker, William “Bill” McKibben will be on campus April 13, 2016, in the CUB senior ballroom.  We will host a roundtable discussion on a second day during the week and we are working on inviting our colleagues from the University of Washington to present a second roundtable late in the week prior to the full start of Humanities Week.  Please watch for further developments.

Three Founding Latin American Women Photographers

Women played an important role in early Latin American photography, and photography provided women with an important cultural genre for examining women’s issues and expressing feminist interpretations.  Grete Stern (Argentina), Annemarie Heinrich (Argentina), and Hildegard Rosenthal (Brazilian) came out of German cultural backgrounds (in Stern’s case, Jewish German roots), but all three were responsible for significant innovations in the development of Argentine and Brazilian photographic traditions.

Marco Berger: Filming Queer Masculinities in Argentina

With a series of audacious and strikingly original films made during the past five years, Argentine director Marco Berger (born 1977) has moved to the forefront in the field of queer filmmaking in Argentina, a country that has itself taken the lead in Latin America in producing provocative films that shed the cliches of so much commercial gay filmmaking in the United States.  Going beyond the formulas of boy-meets-boy and boy-beds-boy texts, which necessarily involve the money shot of actual sexual gymnastics at the expense of the subtitles of human emotion and erotic complexities, Berger’s films focus on the circumstances in which individuals are suddenly confronted with the potential for homoerotic experience, often against their awareness and in contradiction to their presumed heterosexuality.  It’s not that these individuals “discover” that they are “really” gay.  Rather, they are led to discover a wider arena of erotic potential for their bodies than they had previously imagined.  Three key Berger films are discussed Plan B (2009), Ausente (2011), and Tension sexual: volatil (2012).  Berger’s films are an integral part of the importance of a queer consciousness in contemporary urban Argentina.