WT’s Great Books Series to Delve into Amarillo Native George Saunders’ ‘Pastoralia’


CANYON, Texas — An acclaimed short story by an Amarillo-born author is in the spotlight for the next installment of West Texas A&M University’s Great Books Series. 

Dr. Ryan Brooks, assistant professor of English, will lead the discussion of George Saunders’ “Pastoralia” at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 via Zoom. 

The discussion series — sponsored by the Department of English, Philosophy and Modern Languages — generally is open to those who either have or haven’t read the book, said Dr. Daniel Bloom, Great Books organizer and associate professor of philosophy.  

“Pastoralia” is the titular work in Saunders’ 2000 short-story collection, a New York Times notable book for 2001. The story won the O. Henry Award in 2001. 

“I selected this story because it raises interesting questions about the lengths people will go to to keep their head above water in economic hard times,” Brooks said. “It’s also a very characteristic Saunders story: It reflects his concern for the little guy, his use of vaguely dystopian scenarios that look a lot like our world, and his distinctive mix of humor and pathos.” 

Brooks joined the WT faculty in 2015 after receiving his Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and serving as a postdoctoral teaching fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. His teaching and research interests include American literature of the 20th- and 21st centuries, literary theory and composition. His book “Liberalism and American Literature in the Clinton Era” was released in June. 

Saunders is the author of 11 books, including “Lincoln in the Bardo,” which won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for best work of fiction in English. His stories have appeared regularly in The New Yorker since 1992. 

WT professors and guest lecturers lead the monthly Great Books discussions. 

The series began in 2011 and is traditionally held in person on the second Tuesday of the month at Burrowing Owl Books, 7406 S.W. 34th Ave., Suite 2B, in Amarillo. It shifted to Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic; a return to in-person meetings is expected to occur in January. 

To register for the October discussion, email Dr. Patricia Tyrer at [email protected].  

The series is one way in which WT serves the region by offering engagement with a variety of literary and philosophical texts. Being a learner-centered university is a key principle of the University’s long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. 

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched Sept. 23 — has raised about $110 million.