WC’s Rose O’Neill Literary House announces plans for 50th anniversary

By Sophie Foster

News Co-Editor

The Rose O’Neill Literary House will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this academic year, and the lineup of events for the upcoming year were planned with the magnitude of the occasion in mind, according to a release on the Washington College website.

The semester’s events began on Tuesday, Sept. 13, with a virtual reading in memory of Professor Emeritus and Founder of the Literary House Bob Day, who passed away on Jan. 6. According to the release, attendees of the virtual reading were “invited to celebrate the life and work of Bob Day by sharing a story about [Day] or a short excerpt of his writing.”

According to Director of the Literary House Dr. James Allen Hall, “as literary houses at WC turn 50, it’s important to remember our origins, particularly the man who had the gumption to start such a thing. It also affirmed the core value and purpose of the Literary House: to create community that is bigger than one person and can, to quote Whitman, ‘contain multitudes.’”

This celebration was in the works for several months. According to previous Elm coverage, in preparation for this year’s landmark anniversary, the literary house faculty and staff spent the past year accumulating photos, messages, and remembrances of both Bob Day and the Rose O’Neill Literary House, as well as photos and histories of the literary house’s previous two iterations as the Richmond House and the Dorchester House.

According to the literary house’s page on the College’s website, they “offer literary programming across disciplines, spaces to study and to hold class, professional mentorship and guidance for students, and training in new and antique printing technologies.”

The role of literary house on campus, according to the website, is assisting students along their journey of growth as emerging artists, and helping them to develop a vision of their potential lives as future writers, editors, and publishers following their graduation from WC.

These responsibilities were borne in mind when planning the events for the semester in honor of the anniversary. Students and members of the campus community who missed the virtual event that kicked off the semester with a nod toward Day can connect with the literary house at any of the upcoming events.

On Monday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. biophysicist and writer Joseph Osmundson will lead a virtual reading and generative workshop both for individuals who consider themselves scientists and those who consider themselves writers — “though those things do need to overlap,” the release said.

Novelist Manuel Muñoz will host a reading on Monday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. at the literary house. Muñoz is the author of novel What You See in the Dark and the short story collections Zigzagger and The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue, and he will be sharing his work at the event. Muñoz will also be signing broadsides for guests, a literary house commemorative tradition that will be brought back this year after the COVID-19 pandemic put it on pause, according to Dr. Hall.

The final event of the semester, as is customary for the literary house each fall, is the Class of 2026 First Year Reading, which will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. at the literary house. This event invites current first-year students at the College to share their writingin a public, welcoming forum, often for the first time. The entire community is invited to attend and celebrate the work of said community’s newest members.

In addition to these events, the literary house will be “kicking off a fundraising campaign for The Light of Day Internship Program,” according to Director of the Literary House Dr. James Allen Hall. “The internship program will award its first recipients in fall 2023 and pair WC students with national presses and literary organizations.”

Looking forward, according to Dr. Hall, the literary house also plans to host an alumni reading in the spring and co-sponsor the Kent County Poetry Festival, “now in an expanded form,” according to Dr. Hall.

“Otherwise, we’ll continue to do what we’ve done for the past 50 years: foster a close-knit and vibrant literary community, both for our students and the larger writing community,” Dr. Hall said.

Students who want to remain active with the literary house can visit while it’s open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, or from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday — according to Dr. Hall, the literary house staff “welcomes anyone and everyone on campus…[to] come make yourself a cup of tea…and get some reading or writing done,” and they ask “people to please mask up.” Those interested can also keep up to date with the upcoming events at their website page, washcoll.edu/lithouse, or reach out to Dr. Hall at jhall5@washcoll.edu.

Photo by Dylan Friedman

Photo Caption: The Literary House is one of three signature centers at WC.

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