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The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Thornton Wilder)

On the afternoon of Friday, August 24, 2018, groups of first-year students and faculty leaders will discuss The Bridge of San Luis Rey as part of New Student Orientation for the Class of 2022.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is the first novel chosen for Penn Reading Project in 15 years. It famously begins, “On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” What follows in this fictional history is an examination of the lives of each of these travelers, initiated by a local monk, Brother Juniper, who seeks to understand why such a terrible thing could happen. (Although Mr. Wilder was born and bred in the United States, the South American setting of Bridge is something he took very seriously, and he writes vividly about Peru and its culture.) For Brother Juniper, this is, in part, a religious question—for Mr. Wilder and his readers, it may be more broadly philosophical. 

The fundamental action of Bridge is Brother Juniper’s search to answer an unanswerable question—why does tragedy occur? For Mr. Wilder, the question has its foundation in belief and philosophy, but it can be equally pertinent in any number of other contexts. The search for “why?” is foundational in every aspect of education. 

In mid-July 2018, the text of Bridge will be available online to students and discussion leaders through YUZU, the B&N e-reader software, as well as in print for discussion leaders.

On the afternoon of Friday, August 24, 2018, groups of first-year students and faculty leaders will discuss The Bridge of San Luis Rey as part of New Student Orientation for the Class of 2022.

Incoming Penn freshmen will automatically be signed up for the Penn Reading Project. Faculty and senior academic staff or cordially invited to take part as discussion leaders on August 24. For more information and to sign up, visit www.prpleaders.org.

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