Every year, the incoming class of new Centre College students reads a common book over the summer, which they then discuss with their faculty advisers and peers during the annual first-year orientation. This year, Centre students will also have the opportunity to discuss the first-year book—“Station Eleven”—with its author, Emily St. John Mandel.
Mandel will give a lecture and participate in a question-and-answer session at Centre on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Newlin Hall in the Norton Center for the Arts, followed by a book signing in the foyer. The event is free and open to the public and also counts as a convocation credit for students.
A work of fiction, “Station Eleven” follows a combined Shakespearean theater troupe and symphony as they travel across post-apocalyptic North America, where the majority of the population has been wiped out by a flu epidemic. But the novel is broad in scope, with Mandel herself describing the novel as a story of “friendship, memory, love, celebrity, our obsession with objects, oppressive dinner parties, comic books and knife-throwing.”
The First-Year Book Committee selected “Station Eleven” not only for its unique plot but for the way Mandel presents the story to the reader and for what it can teach Centre’s first-year students about humanity.
“The novel features intriguing Shakespearean references and allusions as part of the author’s focus on the sense of loss surrounding the passing of the modern world into history,” says Assistant Professor of History John Harney, chair of the committee. “We were attracted to Mandel’s approach, which is interested in looking at the world that follows a global disaster and investigating personal relationships, sometimes between people on opposite sides of the massive disaster that provides the novel’s setting.
“We chose it in part with the intention of encouraging our students to think of a popular genre of fiction in a new and engaging way,” Harney continues. “Of course, now that they are with us at Centre, they should be exploring new and different avenues of discussion on large topics every day.”
Mandel will visit classes on the morning of Sept. 21 to discuss the many themes explored in “Station Eleven.”
Since its release, the book has been the subject of much critical praise. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Toronto Book Award, and was also a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pen/Faulkner Award in 2015. The novel has been translated to 27 languages around the world.
Including Station Eleven, Mandel is the author of four novels, and her works of short fiction have appeared in numerous anthologies, including “The Best American Mystery Stories 2013.”
by Elizabeth Trollinger
September 19, 2016