Impressive panel comes to Teaching Teachers workshop

Teaching Teachers to Teach Vonnegut Logoby Mitchell Hall

Kurt Vonnegut, born in Indianapolis on Nov. 11, 1922, published his first novel, Cat’s Cradle, in 1963. Vonnegut contributed to the American literary scene right up until his death, producing novels that bulge at their spines with satirical, haunting humor. His novels explore the various themes of American culture, while imposing his critiques on war, poverty and family.

This summer’s seminar, Teaching Teachers to Teach Vonnegut, provides an opportunity for high school and college lecturers to gather in Indianapolis to learn how to better introduce and teach Vonnegut’s writings in their courses.

It’s a pretty great opportunity. It’s free, and the library brings in highly respected scholars. Here is this year’s panel and what they’ll cover:

Rodney Allen, a retired Vonnegut scholar, professor and author, will lead the weeklong seminar, using a selected number of Vonnegut’s writings while sharing his insight with attendees.

Professor Jon Eller, director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI, will focus on teaching two themes in Vonnegut’s early fiction that have had an enduring appeal through generations of readers: the search for meaning in life, and the sanctity of the human soul. Vonnegut reminds us that individuals, rather than institutions, offer the most meaningful answers to such questions, rising to his cautionary admonition in Mother Night: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” How does he build to this conclusion?

In his writings and speeches, Vonnegut frequently mentioned his family and Indianapolis. As part of a tour of the IUPUI University Library Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, archives specialist Greg Mobley will look at the activities of the Vonnegut and related families in the city’s German-American community, and how their actions and ideals shaped the milieu that Vonnegut grew up in and was influenced by.

Professor Greg Sumner, chair of the University of Detroit-Mercy history department, says his aim is to highlight the themes that connect Vonnegut’s novels and make them relevant to young people in the 21st century: the complexities and dangers of technology, the need for community and planetary citizens, and the critical importance of free, creative expression in a healthy society. He will refer to the novels as well as his own work, Unstuck in Time, to illustrate how Vonnegut conveyed these messages with unpretentious simplicity and wit.


Ind Arts Commission logoTeaching Teachers to Teach Vonnegut is made possible in part with support from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Katie Biggs

    I am going to be teaching Cat’s Cradle this year for the first time. My class will be a sophomore English class. Any ideas?

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