Introducing the New PEN America Digital Archive: 1,500 Hours of Audio & Video Featuring 2,200 Eminent Writers

Image via Pen.Org

The recent­ly launched PEN Amer­i­ca Dig­i­tal Archive is an Aladdin’s cave of lit­er­ary trea­sures. An incred­i­ble amount of cul­tur­al pro­gram­ming has grown up around the orga­ni­za­tion’s com­mit­ment to cham­pi­oning writ­ers’ civ­il liberties–over 1,500 hours worth of audio and visu­al files.

Delve into this free, search­able archive for pre­vi­ous­ly inac­ces­si­ble lec­tures, read­ings, and dis­cus­sions fea­tur­ing the lead­ing writ­ers, intel­lec­tu­als, and artists of the last 50 years. Many of these New York City-based events were planned in response to the oppres­sion and hard­ship suf­fered by fel­low writ­ers around the world.

Feel­ing over­whelmed by this all-you-can-eat buf­fet for the mind? The archivists have your back with fea­tured col­lec­tions–an assort­ment of rau­cous, polit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions from the 1986 PEN World Con­gress and a thir­ty year ret­ro­spec­tive of Toni Mor­ri­son.

We are lucky that Nobel Prize-win­ner Mor­ri­son, a vig­or­ous cul­tur­al observ­er and crit­ic, still walks among us. Also, that the archive affords us a chance to spend qual­i­ty time with so many great lit­er­ary emi­nences who no longer do:

John Stein­beck reads excerpts of The Grapes of Wrath and his short sto­ries, “The Snake,” “John­ny Bear,”  and “We’re Hold­ing Our Own.”

Jerzy Kosin­s­ki dis­cuss­es teach­ing, and the auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal ele­ments of his con­tro­ver­sial 1965 nov­el, The Paint­ed Bird.

Madeleine L’En­gle con­sid­ers myth, sci­ence, faith, and the con­nec­tion between art and fear.

Saul Bel­low tack­les how intel­lec­tu­als influ­ence and use tech­nol­o­gy, a par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing top­ic in light of the dystopi­an fiction’s cur­rent pop­u­lar­i­ty.

Nadine Gordimer relives the pub­li­ca­tion, ban­ning and swift unban­ning of her polit­i­cal his­tor­i­cal nov­el, Burg­er’s Daugh­ter.

Susan Son­tag uses a PEN Inter­na­tion­al Con­gress press con­fer­ence to draw atten­tion to ways in which the host coun­try, Korea, was falling short in regard to free­dom of expres­sion.

Gwen­dolyn Brooks reveals the back­sto­ry on her poems, includ­ing “The Lovers of the Poor,” and “We Real Cool.”

Begin your adven­tures in the PEN Amer­i­ca Dig­i­tal Archive here.

via Elec­tric Lit­er­a­ture

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Speech Bites: Nigel War­bur­ton, Host of Phi­los­o­phy Bites, Cre­ates a Spin Off Pod­cast Ded­i­cat­ed to Free­dom of Expres­sion

Great Writ­ers on Free Speech and the Envi­ron­ment

Penn Sound: Fan­tas­tic Audio Archive of Mod­ern & Con­tem­po­rary Poets

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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