Indian author Arundhati Roy to visit

March 5, 2013

Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy will visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus March 20-21 to speak to Wisconsin high school students. Roy will offer the keynote presentation for the Great World Texts Student Conference, sponsored by the UW-Madison Center for the Humanities, and will spend the day interacting with students who have read her Booker Prize-winning novel, "The God of Small Things."

Photo: Arundhati Roy

Roy

In addition to delivering the conference keynote on Wednesday, March 20, Roy will give a free, public talk as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series (co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Directorate and the Center for the Humanities) on Thursday evening, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Nearly 500 students and 45 teachers from 14 high schools around Wisconsin are expected to attend the eighth annual conference. The annual event is the culmination of a year's worth of deep engagement with a globally-important text. Past texts have included Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart," Cervantes' "Don Quixote," and "Antigone."

UW-Madison faculty and graduate students involved in this year's Great World Texts program represent a wide range of disciplines and departments, including geography, sociology and women's studies. Co-faculty advisors include professors Aparna Dharwadker (theatre & drama, English) and B. Venkat Mani (German). Professor Vinay Dharwadker (languages and cultures of Asia) helped write the Educators' Guide (along with Aparna Dharwadker). Professor Caroline Levine (English) offered a close reading session for high school teachers during one of the year's workshops. Lecturer Kristin Hunt and Ph.D. candidate Mary McAvoy (both from theatre & drama) created theatre workshops for the student conference.

Armed with teaching insights from UW-Madison faculty and the detailed Educators' Guide, high school instructors have explored Roy's themes of poverty, caste, religion, and globalization with their students throughout the year. At the March conference, students will deliver presentations and show off project displays that offer various perspectives on "The God of Small Things."

For many, the opportunity to interview the author during her keynote presentation is a chance of a lifetime, says center director Sara Guyer.

"Imagine a student in rural Wisconsin or inner-city Milwaukee studying this prize-winning novel for an entire year and now getting the chance to meet the author and ask her about it," says Guyer. "The opportunity reflects the Center for the Humanities' longstanding commitment to international exchange and civic engagement, as well as our love of experimentation and intellectual risk in reaching out to unconventional audiences."

Roy's book sold six million copies and has been translated into 40 languages. Set in a village in the southwestern state of Kerala, the novel is filled with autobiographical elements from Roy's own childhood in Kerala's Syrian Christian community. Roy, who lives in India, is well-known for her political activism. She is a leading voice in movements against environmental degradation, neoliberal policies, and the use of nuclear weapons.

At the public lecture on Thursday evening, Roy is expected to read selections from her work and answer questions about writing, reading, living, and advocating for change. A book signing will follow the discussion, with select works available for purchase.

—Mary Ellen Gabriel