LAWRENCE — Camaraderie among soldiers, victorious advances and humiliating retreats, horrific injury, the pain of recovery, the shock of sudden death, and above all, a classic romance: It’s a storyline that today would suck you into a weekend of Netflix binge watching — but one Ernest Hemingway laid out 86 years ago in his classic, “A Farewell to Arms,” the 2015-16 KU Common Book.
“A Farewell to Arms” is widely regarded as an American masterpiece. It is the story of an American ambulance driver serving on the Italian front during World War I and his romance with an English nurse. The Office of First-Year Experience will provide first-year students a copy of the KU Common Book during KU Orientation to read and discuss at activities and programs throughout the year.
“A goal of KU Common Book is to leave a lasting impression on our first-year students about the intellectual experience at KU,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said. “Just as Hemingway left his impression on American literature, World War I left a lasting impression on KU, from the Memorial Union and Memorial Stadium built to honor those who served, to our impressive collection of faculty with expertise on The Great War. Hemingway’s semiautobiographical classic is a superb and timely selection.”
Traditional events, including Common Book Discussion Groups during Hawk Week and a Common Book talk, will be enhanced by opportunities to engage with Hemingway experts and World War I scholars and to consider the novel in light of contemporary issues of war and relationships. Additional information on the KU Common Book is available at commonbook.ku.edu.
The 2015-16 selection will connect with the KU World War I Centennial Commemoration. The KUWWI planning committee gained national attention last summer when they staged a Twitter-based e-reenactment, or “tweetenactment,” of the June 28, 1914, assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and have continued to stage events tied to the centennial.
Lorie Vanchena, associate professor of Germanic languages and academic director of European studies, chairs the planning committee.
“Hemingway's novel will generate exciting, creative opportunities for our first-year students and for faculty, staff and the community to explore not only the historical dimensions of World War I, but also — and this is important for so many reasons — the war's relevance today," she said.
"The Spencer Museum of Art will also be continuing its successful collaboration with KU Common Book,” said Saralyn Reece Hardy, director of the Spencer museum. “This year’s selection provides a thrill for all of us. It creates a perfect opportunity for the KU community to draw upon the Spencer's tremendous collection of art related to the First World War to cultivate and expand student engagement with this subject.”
Nominations for the 2016-17 KU Common Book are now being sought at firstyear.ku.edu/nominate from the campus community.
“Our Common Book program consistently engages our community in unique ways other universities avoid,” Gray-Little said. “Whether it is selecting a novel written by a KU faculty member or an American classic, KU Common Book is a source of pride of the university.”