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Voltaire's Coffees for the Class of 2017

Mon, June 3, 2013
Voltaire's Coffees for the Class of 2017


To the Plan II Class of 2017:

Hello!  We, your 2013-2014 P2SA Academic Co-Chairs, would like to welcome each of you to the Plan II community with an invitation to this fall’s Voltaire’s Coffees.  VCs are a unique and time-honored tradition that bring students and faculty together to engage in lively literary discussion and preliminary cookie eating.  Voltaire’s events extend through the academic year, but at the beginning of every fall semester the Academic Co-Chairs sponsor several Voltaire’s Coffees limited to freshmen and hosted by some of the university’s most esteemed professors.  

We will be hosting this year’s freshman VCs during the first two weeks of class, on evenings from Monday, August 26th to Friday, September 12th.  Every freshman is encouraged to register for and attend at least one Voltaire’s Coffee.  Registration for VCs will begin on July 15th.  Instructions for sign up will be sent out in the coming weeks, so please keep an eye out for an email.  Because of other events that we strongly encourage you to attend, there will be no VCs on the evenings of Gone to Texas (August 27), Freshman Convocation (September 3), and Freshman Getaway (September 6).  

Below, and also on the Plan II website under >Current Students>Organizations and Activities>Voltaire's Coffees, you will find a list of the Fall 2013 Voltaire’s Coffees.  This list will be updated as Coffees are added and dates are confirmed.  Information on VC registration (and transportation) will be updated here in the coming weeks also, so for now simply consider which books you’d like to read/coffees you’d like to attend.  In addition to the books and professors listed here, there will be a few other coffees hosted by some of our best professors.

We are both ecstatic you’ll be joining us in the fall.  Enjoy your summer reading and welcome to Plan II!


Kelsey McKinney and Andrew T. Wilson

P2SA Academic Co-Chairs


2013 VC Books and Sponsors order of scheduled VC dates

All addresses and car-pooling information will be available before August 25.

Here is the link to the registration form:

Edward Albee’s The Goat, or, Who is Sylvia?, hosted by Dr. Paul Woodruff

Date: Monday, August 26th @ 7:00PM

Location: Woodruff Home (3204 Cherry Lane)

America's greatest living playwright has written this play about a falling in love, or having an epiphany, or something hard to explain.  Our hero, a successful architect, is unable to communicate with his family or his best friend.  How do you explain what love feels like?  How much can a father love his gay son?  And who is Sylvia?  (Warning: Adult themes)


Paul Woodruff has written a book about theater, translated a number of Greek plays, and crafted a few plays himself.  He also teaches philosophy.  In spare time he designs and builds furniture, plays the cello, and rows a single on Lady Bird Lake.

Kirin Narayan’s  My Family and Other Saints, hosted by Dr. Janet Davis

Date: Wednesday, August 28 @ 7:00PM   NOTE:  DATE CHANGED FROM ORIGINAL POST

Location: CRD 007B, Joynes Reading Room (Honors Quad)

"In 1969, young Kirin Narayan’s older brother, Rahoul, announced that he was quitting school and leaving home to seek enlightenment with a guru. From boyhood, his restless creativity had continually surprised his family, but his departure shook up everyone— especially Kirin, who adored her high-spirited, charismatic brother.

A touching, funny, and always affectionate memoir, My Family and Other Saints traces the reverberations of Rahoul's spiritual journey through the entire family... Deftly recreating the turbulent emotional world of her bicultural adolescence, but overlaying it with the hard-won understanding of adulthood, Narayan presents a large, rambunctious cast of quirky characters. Throughout, she brings to life not just a family but also a time when just about everyone, it seemed, was consumed by some sort of spiritual quest."


Professor Davis was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1964, three days after a devastating Alaskan earthquake triggered tsunami warnings across the Hawaiian Islands and beyond. She spent the majority of her childhood and young adulthood in the Upper Midwest—with intermediate stops on study abroad programs in Germany and India. From 1986-1989, Professor Davis worked as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines. She finished her Ph.D. in U.S. History in 1998 and landed at the University of Texas that fall.

Professor Davis is finishing her third book,The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America (forthcoming from Oxford University Press). Professor Davis is also the author of The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top (University of North Carolina Press, 2002), the winner of a Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award; the Robert W. Hamilton Book Award; and a finalist for the George Freedley Memorial Award from the Theatre Library Association. Professor Davis is also the editor of Circus Queen and Tinker Bell: The Life of Tiny Kline (University of Illinois Press, 2008), by Tiny Kline. Professor Davis's essay, "Cockfight Nationalism: Blood Sport and the Moral Politics of American Empire and Nation Building," will be published in American Quarterly in Fall 2013. Professor Davis works regularly as a consultant for museum exhibitions and documentary films. She has received fellowships from FLAS VI in Hindi, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Association of University Women, and the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches Introduction to American Studies, both halves of Main Currents in American Culture, and specialized seminars in U.S. social and cultural history; popular culture; animal studies; women’s and gender history; cultural approaches to U.S. foreign relations; and U.S. social movements. Professor Davis has won the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award (2004), as well as the Eyes of Texas Excellence Award (2000).

John Steinbeck's East of Eden, hosted by Dr. Wendy Domjan

Date: Wednesday, August 28th @ 7:00PM

Location: CRD 007B Joynes Reading Room (Honors Quad)

In this classic novel, Steinbeck explores the question of freedom of choice and personal identity across multiple generations of two California families. A variety of vividly drawn characters enact alternative ways of approaching this issue as they try to create or evade what they see to be their own destinies, in the process raising some of the most compelling questions that define being human.
Wendy Domjan got her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1977. She has taught in the Psychology Department at UT since that time, with the exception of a five year period when she stayed at home raising her young children. She is now a Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Psychology, and was formerly the Assistant Director of the Plan II Honors Program.  She has won numerous teaching awards, including most recently the Regent’s Outstanding Teacher Award.

Jason Lutes’ Berlin: City of Stones, Book One, hosted by Dr. Brian Doherty

Date: Thursday, August 29th @ 7:00PM

Location:  CRD 007A, Joynes Reading Room (Honors Quad)

This book presents the first part of Jason Lutes' captivating trilogy, set in the twilight years of Germany's Weimar Republic. Kurt Severing, a journalist, and Marthe Muller, an art student, are the central figures in a broad cast of characters intertwined with the historical events unfolding around them. City of Stones covers eight months in Berlin, from September 1928 to May Day, 1929, meticulously documenting the hopes and struggles of its inhabitants as their future is darkened by a glowing shadow.


Brian Doherty is a senior lecturer in the English Department. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1994. Courses taught in Masterworks of World Literature have led to an interest in the newly developing canon of global world literature.  Dr. Doherty teaches world literature in the Plan II Honors Program. He has an essay in progress on ''Three Presentations of Achebe's Things Fall Apart'' which looks at the novel in context of three different anthologies.

Jim Crisp's Sleuthing the Alamo: Davy Crockett's Last Stand and Other Myths of the Texas Revolution, hosted by Dr. Michael Stoff

Date: Wednesday, September 13th @ 7:00PM     NOTE:  DATE CHANGED FROM ORIGINAL POST

Location: Stoff Residence (5906 Upvalley Run)

This riveting account of the Texas Revolution reads like a detective novel and shuttles back and forth between our contemporary present and the mythic past of Texas. In it, Crisp unravels many of the mysteries surrounding the Revolution and some of its key players. Along the way, he debunks some of the longest standing myths about the Texas Revolution, not least the somewhat less than heroic manner in which Davy Crockett died, and shows us the rewards, both personal and professional, that can be gleaned from meticulous historical research and the creative compiling of narrative.  


On May 17, 2008, at the Plan II Honors Commencement Convocation, President Bill Powers announced the appointment of Professor Stoff as the director of Plan II Honors through 2012. Michael Stoff served as the director ad interim from September 2006 until May 2008. Dr. Stoff is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor and Associate Professor in the Department of History. He received his doctorate from Yale University and serves as co-editor of the Oxford New Narratives in American History. Since 1998, Dr. Stoff has been involved with the Normandy Scholars program in which students study the Second World War in class and in Europe.

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, hosted by Dr. James Loehlin

Date: Friday, August 30th @ 7:00PM

Location: Loehlin Home

Shakespeare's comedy portrays the quarreling couple Beatrice and Benedick as well as the villainous Don John and the hilarious constable Dogberry. Recently presented in a modern-dress film version, this remains one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies.  


James Loehlin is a Plan II alumnus as well as an English professor and Director of the Shakespeare at Winedale program. His teaching is centered on exploring dramatic works through performance, and he is the author of several books on Shakespeare and Chekhov.

Wendy Kopp’s One Day All Children, hosted by Professor Grant Thomas

Date: Wednesday, September 4 @ 7:00PM   NOTE:  DATE CHANGED FROM ORIGINAL POST

Location: Joynes Reading Room (Honors Quad)

From her dorm room at Princeton University, twenty-one-year-old college senior Wendy Kopp decided to launch a movement to improve public education in America. In One Day, All Children... , she shares the remarkable story of Teach For America, a non-profit organization that sends outstanding college graduates to teach for two years in the most under-resourced urban and rural public schools in America. The astonishing success of the program has proven it possible for children in low-income areas to attain the same level of academic achievement as children in more privileged areas and more privileged schools.  One Day, All Children… is not just a personal memoir. It's a blueprint for the new civil rights movement--a movement that demands educational access and opportunity for all American children.
Plan II assistant adjunct professor Grant Thomas is a career educator whose major focus for the past 30+ years has been on systematic strategies for youth empowerment and service. He started the original PAL (Peer Assistance and Leadership) Program in Austin ISD in 1980, and guided its growth into a national model peer-mentoring program that has been implemented by hundreds of school districts throughout Texas and the nation. In 1994 he established YouthLaunch, an Austin-based youth empowerment nonprofit, and served as its Executive Director for nine years. A former board member of the National Association of Peer Programs, he also served on the board of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Austin Public Schools from 2003-2011. His educational background includes a B.A. from Princeton, magna cum laude (1967); an Ed. M. from Harvard (1974); and four years of graduate study in educational psychology at UT (1976-80). For the past five years he has overseen the Plan II/KIPP Partnership initiative, which centers on Plan II students' mentoring younger "KIPPsters" -- and in the process, becoming deeply immersed in issues related to educational opportunity and reform.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah, hosted by Dr. Martin Kevorkian

Date: Wednesday, September 4th @ 7:00PM

Location:  CRD 007B, Joynes Reading Room (Honors Quad)

From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, a dazzling new novel: a story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s most powerful and astonishing novel yet."

Selected above all for meditations on America and American identities from an astute and eloquent observer.


Martin Kevorkian is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of English. He holds a PhD in English from UCLA, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford. He is the author of Color Monitors: The Black Face of Technology in America (Cornell, 2006) and Writing Beyond Prophecy: Emerson, Hawthorne, and Melville After the American Renaissance (LSU, 2013).

Edward B. Burger’s and Michael Starbird’s The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, hosted by Dr. Michael Starbird

Date: Thursday, September 5th @ 7:00PM

Location: Starbird Home (7506 Valburn Drive)

This book describes strategies of thinking that systematically make people more innovative, more insightful, and more successful in any part of life.


Michael Starbird is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor who has taught Plan II mathematics for many years. He has won Plan II's Chad Oliver Teaching Award among many other teaching awards including the national teaching award from the Mathematical Association of America. He teaches the joy of thinking.

Charles Sprawson’s Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero, hosted by Dr. Carol MacKay

Date: Tuesday, September 10th @ 7:00PM

Location:  CRD 007A, Joynes Reading Room (Honors Quad)

Part cultural history, part literary legacy, part memoir, this absorbing account has been

called the best celebration of swimming ever written. In the author’s own words, “The peculiar psychology of the swimmer, and his ‘feel for water,’ form the basic themes of this book.” Following our discussion in one of the two Carothers seminar rooms, we will adjourn to the larger space of the Joynes Reading Room to screen the Peabody Award-winning film by Jeff McKay (no relation!) based on the book that explores Sprawson’s “virtual cult of immersion”—“the splendor, the bravery, the horror, and the eroticism of the aquatic experience”—from the ancient Greeks to the great swimmers of the 20th century.


With graduate degrees from Stanford University and UCLA, Professor Carol MacKay specializes in Victorian Fiction, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Autobiography. She is the author of Soliloquy in Nineteenth-Century Fiction and Creative Negativity: Four Victorian Exemplars of the Female Quest, as well as editor of The Two Thackerays, Dramatic Dickens, and Annie Besant’s Autobiographical Sketches. The recipient of several teaching awards, most notably the Harry Ransom Award for Teaching Excellence and the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, Professor MacKay has been a member of the Distinguished Teaching Academy since 2003. She swims daily in Barton Springs from May through October, and she confesses to being an ailurophile.

Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time, hosted by Dr. Kristine Hopkins

Date: Tuesday, September 10th @ 7:00PM

Location: Hopkin's Home

Connie Ramos, a woman in her mid-thirties, has been declared insane. But Connie is overwhelmingly sane, merely tuned to the future, and able to communicate with the year 2137. As her doctors persuade her to agree to an operation, Connie struggles to force herself to listen to the future and its lessons for today...
Dr. Hopkins is a Research Assistant Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Research Associate of the Population Research Center.  Her research focuses on reproductive health inequality in Texas, the US-Mexico border, and Latin America. Current projects include an evaluation of reproductive health policies enacted by the 2011 Texas Legislature, the impact of contraceptive availability among Mexican origin women on the US-Mexico border, and the determinants of teen pregnancy in Texas. Previous work focused on the overuse of cesarean section in Brazil and Mexico, the childbirth and contraceptive experiences of HIV-positive women in Brazil, and the demand for sterilization among seropositive and seronegative women in Brazil. She teaches courses on health, reproduction, and demography.  In Fall 2013, she will teach Reproduction: Social & Political Forces.

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, hosted by Dr. Robert Crosnoe

Date: Wednesday, September 11th @ 7:00PM

Location: Crosnoe Home

Since its publication, Stephen Chbosky’s haunting debut novel has received critical acclaim, provoked discussion and debate, grown into a cult phenomenon with over two million copies in print, spent over six months at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and inspired a major motion picture.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.


Rob Crosnoe, a Plan II Honors graduate, received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Carolina Population Center and the Center for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His main research area is the life course and human development; specifically, the connections among children’s and adolescents’ health, psychosocial development, and educational trajectories and how these connections contribute to population-level inequalities (e.g., race, social class, immigration).

John Burt’s Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism, hosted by Dr. Austin Gleeson

Date: Monday, September 11th @ 7:00PM 

Location: Gleeson Home

The book examines the development of Lincoln's attitudes toward slavery and their articulation.  Although a well worked subject this treatment is more insightful about the contrast with Douglas and connects to ideas from modern moral philosophers such Rawls.


Professor Austin Gleeson, a theoretical physicist, received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1965.  He served on the faculty at Syracuse University and moved to The University of Texas in 1969.  He has served in a wide range of all faculty and administrative positions at The University.  He regularly teaches the Plan II physics course.  In addition, he has received many teaching awards including the 2000 Chad Oliver Award from the Plan II students and the 2008 Jeanne Holloway Teaching Excellence Award administered by the Ex-Students Association.

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, hosted by Dr. Alexandra Wettlaufer

Date: Thursday, September 12th @ 7:00PM

Location: Wettlaufer Home (1410 Ethridge Avenue)

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.  Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom--Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.


Alexandra K. Wettlaufer is a professor of French and Comparative Literature, specializing in 19th-century literature and the visual arts.  She also serves as Associate Director of Plan II.  Her most recent book, Portraits of the Artist as a Young Woman: Painting and the Novel in France and Britain, 1800-1860 was published in March 2011.

Anthony Doerr’s Memory Wall, hosted by Matt Valentine

Date: Thursday, September 12th @ 7:00PM   NOTE:  DATE CHANGED FROM ORIGINAL POST

Location: CRD 007B, Joynes Reading Room (Honors Quad)

The centerpiece of Anthony Doerr's second collection of short fiction is the novellaMemory Wall. Set in South Africa in the unspecified future, this is the story of Alma Konacheck, an elderly widow who lives alone on a wealthy estate. With age, her mind has become an unnavigable labyrinth. As a trial patient for a new medical technology, some of her memories have been recorded to an artificial medium, and can be played back and re-experienced. The replayed memories are sometimes pleasant--but without chronology or context, the incomplete memories are also confusing and distressing. Though she interacts with them on several occasions, Alma always forgets that intruders break into her home at night to borrow her memories, looking for clues to a valuable secret from her past. Doerr writes with evocative, lyrical prose, and creates such a richly-textured narrative that reviewers have been reluctant to label this work science fiction.


A 2000 Plan II/English graduate of UT Austin, Matt Valentine currently teaches Plan II seminars on writing and photography. His photographs have been published in many books, newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Men's Journal, the Boston Review, the Harvard Review and others. His short stories have been published in several journals, and have been recognized in national contests. Most recently, he won the 2012 Montana Prize for Fiction. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (the terminal degree in this field) from New York University, where he also worked full time for the Department of Photography and Imaging. Valentine is the Senior Program Coordinator for the Joynes Reading Room, and organizes the Joynes literary series, which brings world-class writers and scholars to UT to give public readings and lectures.

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