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Celebrating the legacy of Robert Cormier

Posted 09/24/15

Robert Cormier: Censorship and IntoleranceFitchburg State University will celebrate the release of a digital exhibit featuring materials from its Robert E. Cormier archive collection during a half-day symposium on censorship and young adult fiction to be held Thursday, Oct. 1 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library in Hammond Hall, 160 Pearl St. Admission is free and open to the public.

The program, which coincides with Banned Books Week, will include presentations by scholars and authors from the Fitchburg State campus and beyond. The symposium is part of a larger celebration and reflection on the work of the heralded Leominster-born author. Fitchburg State faculty member Elise Takehana and Annamary Consalvo from the University of Texas at Tyler have assembled novel typescripts, essay drafts, letters, speeches, photographs, student artifacts, and historical news coverage of Cormier’s work as it pertains to censorship and the importance of reading in young adults. Particular attention has been paid to his three most often taught novels: The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and Fade. The digital archival collection can be viewed online.

The symposium will feature keynote speaker Katherine Wisser, assistant professor of Library and Information Science at Simmons College. Two panel discussions will follow. The first addresses the pervasive problems surrounding censorship from regional, historical, and literary perspectives. The second panel will highlight Robert Cormier’s work, Fitchburg State’s acquisition of his collection, and present use of the archive. Closing the event will be a reading and discussion with young adult author emily danforth, whose book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, was banned by Delaware's Cape Henlopen Board of Education. Questions on attending the symposium at Fitchburg State can be directed to Takehana at etakehana@fitchburgstate.edu. No reservations are needed to attend the symposium in person.

For those unable to attend, recordings of the symposium will be included in the exhibit in early October. Those who would like to participate virtually may contact Consalvo at aconsalvo@uttyler.edu to reserve a space. Teachers/faculty members and their classes are particularly encouraged to reserve virtual seats. Please reserve early as there are limited slots for virtual attendance. The community is invited to engage via social media by using the hashtag #digitalcormier.

On Oct. 1, the opening remarks and keynote address will run from noon to 1:30 p.m. The panel on censorship will follow from 1:40 to 2:40 p.m., followed by the founders panel from 2:50 to 3:50 p.m.

Throughout the fall, items from Fitchburg State's Robert Cormier collection will be on display in the Gallucci-Cirio Library and there will be a “blind date with a censored book” shelf inviting readers to explore dozens of banned titles.

Takehana will also introduce a screening of the film adaptation of Cormier's celebrated novel The Chocolate War at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28 in Hammond Hall. Takehana will also lead a discussion after the film.

Later this fall, Robert Cormier’s daughter Chris Cormier Hayes will host a discussion of The Chocolate War and Beyond the Chocolate War at the Leominster Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m.

The symposium and digital exhibit are made possible through the support and collaboration of the Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library, the English Studies Department of Fitchburg State University, the University of Texas at Tyler, and the Cormier estate. Acknowledgment is also given to retired Fitchburg State faculty member Marilyn McCaffrey, who was a founder of the archive and a champion of working with the collection.

Featured speakers and panelists:

Emily M. Danforth’s debut novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, was winner of the 2013 Montana Book Award and a finalist for the William C. Morris Award and a Lambda Literary Award. Emily is an Assistant Professor of English-Creative Writing at Rhode Island College and a recent MacDowell Fellow. Her second novel, Side Talks with Girls, is forthcoming from HarperCollins.

Katherine M. Wisser, assistant professor at the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, teaches and researches the organization of information, archival description, metadata and the history of libraries. She has an MA in American History from the University of New Hampshire, an MSLS and a Ph.D. in Information Science from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Angie Miller, the 2011 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, a TED speaker, and a writer, is a grade 7-12 librarian in Meredith, N.H. who has fought censorship in her own classroom. She serves as advocacy chair on the New Hampshire School Library Media Specialist Association, supporting censorship issues at the state level.

Angela Pitrone is a secondary English teacher at Belmont High School in New Hampshire, having recently completed a year teaching in the United Arab Emirates at a semi-private STEM school for Emirati nationals. Angela is currently pursuing research regarding the role of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation in academic achievement among adolescents.

Daniel Sarefield teaches ancient history and Latin at Fitchburg State. Sarefield's research revolves around religions, rituals, and books. He has presented at conferences across the U.S. and Europe and published works on the practice of book burning in ancient Rome, on which he is currently completing a scholarly monograph.

Laura Baker teaches American history and history education courses at Fitchburg State University. She directs the University's Oral History Project, the goal of which is to record and preserve oral histories documenting personal perspectives about the University and communities in the Fitchburg area.

Chris Cormier Hayes is the coordinator of the Writing Center and an English and writing instructor at Simmons College in Boston. She likes to explore how graphic novels probe the issues of identity, race, and gender.

Katherine "Coco" O'Toole Zephir, an Instructional Services Librarian at the Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library at Fitchburg State University, provides library instruction and reference services to the University community. She is interested in the role libraries play in the censorship debate as well as the importance of equal and open access to information.

Asher Jackson is the archivist for the University Archives and Special Collections at the Gallucci-Cirio library, where the Cormier collection is housed. His primary area of professional and scholarly interest is in the preservation and curation of digital materials.

Robert Foley is the retired director of the Gallucci-Cirio Library of Fitchburg State University. He was responsible for establishing the Archives and Special Collections department with a goal to support the preservation of the records of local authors, organizations and the University and encourage research by providing classes and online access to the documents.

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