Summer Institute in Politics and Literature: Telling the American Story

A summer immersion in the American imagination, through the stories we tell. 

Join the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's summer reading program to read one short story (10-20 pages) by an American author each week, exploring what they reveal to us about justice, law, culture, community, and what it is to be human.

SCETL students may be familiar with Aristotle’s idea that humans are “political animals.” But do you ever think of yourself as a “mimetic” animal too? As humans, we often grapple with the world around us through creative imitation. Writers, poets, painters, dancers, sculptors, and storytellers of all stripes re-present reality—present it again in a new light—through their art.

The curriculum will tentatively include Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Celestial Railroad, Edith Wharton’s The Pelican, William Faulkner’s The Barn Burning, Ralph Ellison’s In a Strange Country, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, and Ursula Le Guin’s The Day Before the Revolution.

Apply today.

The program is open to all current ASU undergraduate students and all SCETL graduates.

In advance of each meeting, participants will be supplied with a digital copy of the short story of the week by email.

The reading group will meet via Zoom each Wednesday from June 10th to July 29th, from 5:00-6:00 p.m.

How to apply

In order to apply for the program, please send a short paragraph (150-250 words) explaining your interest in the program to Dr. Jakub Voboril at or Dr. Theresa Smart at

Certificate of program completion

To receive a certificate of program completion, students must attend at least 6 of the 8 sessions, and participate in one twenty-minute individual conversation with a program instructor at the conclusion of the summer.

In addition, current ASU students may count Institute meetings toward the Civic Awareness Award. Each meeting may be counted for one point, assuming the student fulfills the other requirements of the Award program. For more information on the Civic Awareness Award, click here.