Before January 26
Read: An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
Answer on your blog: In what ways are Dillard’s childhood experiences similar to or different from your own? How does Dillard write about place?
Before February 9
Read: Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon
Answer on your blog: Discuss the symbolism of the Cloud Factory, as it relates to Art’s experience, as well as Cleveland’s. Also — consider your own landscapes. What place from your childhood/adolescence is your own Cloud Factory? Describe it and explain its significance to you and your own place.
Before February 23
Read: Out of This Furnace, by Thomas Bell
Answer on your blog: Why did George Kacha decide to come to America? What happened when he arrived? What were the living and working conditions like in the steel mill towns? How does this relate to the early days of the labor union movement? Why did Dobie move to Detroit and then return to Pennsylvania? How and why did Dobie become involved in union activities? What problems did Dobie face because of his involvement with the unions? How does Pittsburgh’s history with unions play out in our times now?
Before March 9
Read: The Pittsburgh Stories, by Willa Cather
Read: The Trolleyman, by Bob Pajich
Answer on your blog: Regarding “Paul’s Case” — How are the story’s themes—a working-class parent unable to understand and support a son’s love of the arts; the class tension between Paul and the cultured, upper-class patrons where he ushers at the Carnegie; and his acceptance by actors in Downtown Pittsburgh—universal and yet the setting and nuance clearly Pittsburgh?
Regarding “The Trolleyman” — How does Pajich write working-class Pittsburgh? What kind of place makes up the landscape of these poems? What is familiar — and unfamiliar — about the place he recreates here?
Before March 23
Read: Fences, by August Wilson
Answer on your blog: Discuss the significance of the title, Fences, as it relates to characters and themes of the play. How does August Wilson capture the sense of place of Pittsburgh’s Hill District?
Before April 13
Read: The Teeth of the Comb, by Osama Alomar
Respond on your blog: How might the title story be an allegory for human beings and why do you think Alomar chose the compressed, allegorical form for these stories? What effect does his form have on the reader?