Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center


JFRC Students Read Noteworthy Letters

JFRC Students Read Noteworthy Letters

The Spring 2019 semester brought a brand-new library event to the JFRC. Students selected noteworthy letters – whether written by famous authors, artists, or leaders, or relatively unknown individuals – and read them aloud to the audience.

Students dug deep into library resources to discover inspiring, stand-out correspondence. Many looked to their classroom discussions for author ideas. Those chosen included James Joyce, Sylvia Beach, Saint Augustine, and Jane Austen. Giuseppe Verdi’s correspondence with his agent about a theatergoer who asked for his money back after attending Aida twice was a huge hit, closely followed by an elementary class asking Einstein if he believed in God, and Mario Puzo inviting Marlon Brando to star in The Godfather before the film rights had even been purchased. Caravaggio was mentioned in a letter to Pope Paul V, in which the petitioner was clearly distancing himself from the unruly artist. Love was a common theme, with Stieg Larsson’s heart-wrenching, long-lost letter to his partner Eva Gabrielsson, and Richard Aldington’s eye-opening correspondence from the trenches to his wife H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). Advice came up frequently, with F. Scott Fitzgerald cautioning his eleven-year-old daughter about what is important in life, and Gloria Anzaldúa exhorting women of color to write.

In all, 25 students were involved as readers, photographer, camera operator, and Master of Ceremonies. The latter explained the historical relevance of letters and the insights we can gain from them, regarding the true character of the writers and their relationships with the recipients. Each reader gave a short introduction and context to their letter. Questions were encouraged and some audience members were keen to gain more insight.

Students and faculty alike were enriched by this innovative approach to the use of library resources. The JFRC community came together for a truly successful inaugural event.