Freshman reading program without books

    This fall, incoming freshman at the University of Pennsylvania must participate in an extracurricular reading program… with no books.

    This fall, incoming freshman at the University of Pennsylvania must participate in an extracurricular reading program… with no books. For 20 years the school has asked all new students to read the same book at the same time. But this year the book is a painting.
    Caption: Thomas Eakins’ “The Gross Clinic”

    Listen:
    [audio: 090811pcgross.mp3]

    It’s a painting that is not even on display.

    The annual reading program is not graded by nonetheless mandatory, and meant to orient students to each other and campus resources. But instead of reading, freshman will examine and discuss Thomas Eakins’ painting “The Gross Clinic.”

    However the painting has been removed from exhibition so it can be cleaned.

    Penn director of academic initiatives David Fox says that was a big challenge.

    Fox: It’s easy to send students a book and have them read it. So we put together an extensive website which includes some lectures by Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Kathy Foster, by Penn professor David Browlee. To spend an hour or two on it is to uncover The Gross Clinic in a lot of ways: scientific, artistic, etc.

    The painting was the center of a controversial acquisition fight a few years ago when local museums and investors bought the painting in order to keep it in Philadelphia.

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