Well-Read Lives

Chicago, IL

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A book talk with Barbara Sicherman

October 29, 2013, 6:30pm–8:00pm


What is the role of literature in building shared identities and creating community? Literature was a central element of the Hull-House Settlement in its early days and provided an avenue for sharing across lines of difference. Through literature classes (The Odyssey, Les Misérables) and by studying and performing Shakespeare, Hull-House reformers enacted their belief that culture is a basic human right. How successful were these endeavors, and what can they teach us about cultural literacy efforts today?

In this talk, scholar Barbara Sicherman, author of Well-Read Lives: How Books Inspired a Generation of American Women, will examine the cultural activities of the Hull-House Settlement in its first two decades, including both the goals of its founders and the responses of working-class immigrants who participated. The talk will conclude with a brief consideration of contemporary efforts to promote cultural literacy and community through reading and writing programs.

Barbara Sicherman is William R. Kenan Jr., Professor Emerita, Trinity College, where she taught History, American Studies, and Women’s Studies. Her most recent book, Well-Read Lives: How Books Inspired a Generation of American Women, was published in 2010 by the University of North Carolina Press and has recently been issued in paperback. She has been a long-time board member of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and is currently a tutor at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford.