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Debra Winger, star of Forget Paris and Terms of Endearment, will serve as a teaching fellow this semester in General Education 105, "The Literature of Social Reflection."
According to Agee Professor of Social Ethics Robert Coles '50, the course's instructor, Winger approached head TF Victoria Kennedy and Coles about teaching in the course, which explores the relationship between literature and social issues.
"[Kennedy] was very impressed with her knowledge of those books and the narrative documentary tradition. She loves reading those books, responding to them and taking them to heart," Coles said. "She is a first-rate teaching fellow."
The course, often called a life-changing experience by its students, frequently attracts TFs who have already completed their formal education.
In the fall of 1997, singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen attended several lectures, spoke with students and considered serving as a TF himself before running into scheduling difficulties.
"They are doctors, lawyers, they are in business and government, flying in from far away to teach," Coles said. "This is someone who has been involved in films who has tried to render social, political and cultural moments in film. She is going to add a certain vitality and intellectual and emotional energy to the teaching of the course."
According to Coles, Winger has used her life on the screen to explore the social issues dealt with in the course.
"Any sort of variety of life experience brings perspective to this course that's new and fresh," said Trevor Hall, another TF for the course. "She's an insightful and interesting person whether or not she was in movies."
This winter Winger will be performing in Anton Chekhov's Ivanov at the American Repertory Theater as Anna, Ivanov's wife. Ivanov will be playing from Nov. 26 until Jan. 22.
"The TFs get involved because they love the opportunity to get to read all of the books and to learn from the students as they do it," Coles said. "There is a reciprocal relationship between the students and the teachers."
Michael P. Abate '00, who is in Winger's section for the course, said the movie star's acting ability gives her an edge when interpreting the literature of the course.
"She'll be able to construct a whole person from a character perhaps better than other TFs," Abate said.
Coles agreed that Winger will not have problems relating to the students, but suggested that students may have to work to bridge the gap between themselves and a Hollywood personality such as Winger.
"One of the books read in the course is The Moviegoer. It will help the students relate to her because the novel deals with the subject matter of how deal with people charged with fame," Coles said.
Winger's most recent work was her narration of Rumi: Poet of the Heart. Rumi presents readings of 13th century Turkish poetry.
Winger has also been involved in a number television and film productions over the past 20 years, including An Officer and A Gentleman in 1982.
"She has done a wonderful job on screen," Coles said, "and her concern reaches out to those expressed in the books we study and to the students in the class."
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