Friends of English: For the Love of Literature
By Maureen Brogan
Published Apr 2, 2014 8:00 PM
At a recent meeting of this significant support group, the topic was the Irish capital as depicted by James Joyce.
Religious oppression. Social stigma. Betrayal. Violence. Death. Welcome to a recent meeting of UCLA’s Friends of English book club. Close to 50 booklovers met at the home of author and UCLA English professor Mona Simpson to explore the complex themes and relationships in James Joyce’s Dubliners. Facilitating the event was Professor Helen Deutsch, who provided context for the interconnected stories of daily life in the Irish city.
But Friends of English is much more than a book club. The group supports UCLA’s English department by funding graduate fellowships and scholarships for high school students, underwriting faculty and student research and sharing the benefits of the department’s academic programs with the Los Angeles community. “Our reach is broad,” says Kathy Ballsun, the group’s president. “We have members from all over the country who are intensely loyal to the department, but we are also focused on fueling a love for literature in our local community.”
Friends has also begun a series of literary salons for young alumni at the Hammer Museum and co-sponsors other events at the Hammer that are open to the public. These include “Some Favorite Writers” hosted by Mona Simpson and “Hammer Poetry Series” hosted by Stephen Yenser, a distinguished professor of English and director of creative writing at UCLA.
“It’s very exciting to bring together intellectually curious people who share a love of English,” concludes Ballsun.” Together we’re making a meaningful contribution to English at UCLA.”