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Day One of OWLS Continued: Who is James Thurber?

Posted on August 07, 2019 in OWLS School

Who is James Thurber? October 7 and 14--both sessions from 10am to 3pm.

Michael Rosen and Dr. James Tootle--two renowned scholars will discuss James Thurber--an Ohio man who changed the character of humor and cartooning in America. Often considered the 20th century’s Mark Twain, no other writer produced bestselling work in so many genres including cartoons, commentary, children’s books, autobiography, plays, visual suites, parodies and fiction. The nature of humor as a serious art will play a key role in this lively forum.

Using short readings, visual presentations, brief writing exercises and group discussions, Michael J. Rosen will help participants experience Thurber’s profoundly influential career as a cartoonist, as well as a writer.

Jim Tootle will invite participants to explore the theme of Thurber’s continuing connection to Columbus. Thurber’s timeless takes on family life will resonate with participants who may see themselves as characters in his stories. 

James Thurber was born in Columbus in 1894.  He drew on his hometown experiences for ideas and inspiration throughout his lengthy and productive writing career. As an internationally-known humor writer at The New Yorker magazine, his memories of growing up in “old Columbustown” often provided the settings and characters for his classic stories. 

 Michael J. Rosen

Michael J. Rosen has edited six collections of James Thurber’s unpublished and uncollected work over the last thirty years. Founding literary director of the Thurber House, Michael was involved in creating all the signature programs of the literary center now occupying the Thurber family’s home.

In 1983, Rosen became the literary director of the Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. During his near-twenty-year stay as literary director, Rosen was the editor for several compilations of James Thurber's writings; he also was involved in the creation of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.  Rosen has also taught in the Ohio Art Council Poetry-in-the-Schools Program and Greater Columbus Arts Council Artist-in-the-Schools Program.  He has conducted over 500 young authors' conferences, in-service days, writing workshops, guest author days, and residencies for elementary, middle school, and high school students and teachers. 

As funding literary director of the Thurber House, he was involved in creating all the signature programs relating to Thurber’s college years (1914 – 1917) held at the library center that now occupies the Thurber family home on Jefferson Avenue. This year, the 125th birthday of James Thurber, has occasioned the release of two new books edited by Mr. Rosen —Complete Fables, and A Mile and a Half of Lines: The Art of James Thurber, which coincide with the first major exhibit of Thurber’s artwork, hosted at the Columbus Museum of Art.

James R. Tootle

Dr. James R. Tootle, a lifelong resident of Columbus, earned a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in American history at The Ohio State University. After a long career as a senior administrator at OSU, he retired as Assistant Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.  He has served on the Thurber House Board of Trustees, writes a regular column on Thurber’s life and times for the Thurber House newsletter, and helps Thurber House respond to media inquiries from Columbus Monthly, Ohio Magazine, National Public Radio and the BBC.


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owls, lifelong learning, thurber, school