Al Filreis has been selected to address the Class of 2020 at the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 17. Professor Filreis is the Kelly Family Professor of English, Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, and Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at Penn.
“The College of Liberal and Professional Studies has consistently been a place where experiments in teaching and learning are core to the mission,” says Filreis, who has been teaching online poetry courses at Penn since 1998 and pioneered a popular massive open online course, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo), in 2012. “By necessity, you’re inventing new modes and new units of learning,” he adds. “LPS is where I’ve had the opportunity to do innovative curriculum building and teaching.”
Since the launch of Penn LPS Online in 2018, Filreis has been a faculty director for the Certificate in Creative Writing, a series of intensive online courses that includes a version of ModPo adapted for a smaller, interactive digital classroom. In creative writing and literature courses, says Filreis, students from all stages of life are challenged to think about difficult texts that do more than just deliver information. “This part of the curriculum emphasizes things that cannot be easily understood,” he says. “Why is it so important to pursue the study of interpretation? You want to live your life getting better and better at understanding nuanced communication.”
Filreis is also the Co-Director of PennSound and publisher of Jacket2 magazine. He has published many essays on modern and contemporary American poetry, the literary history of the 1930s and 1950s, the literary politics of the Cold War, the end of the lecture, and digital humanities pedagogy. Among his books are Modernism from Right to Left, Wallace Stevens and the Actual World, and Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-60. Filreis produces and hosts a monthly podcast/radio program, “PoemTalk,” co-sponsored by the Poetry Foundation. He has hosted three eminent writers for residencies each spring through the Kelly Writers House Fellows Program since 1999. He has won many teaching awards at Penn, was named Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in 2000 by the Carnegie Foundation, and was named one of the Top Ten Tech Innovators in Higher Education for 2013 by the Chronicle of Higher Education.