Healing arts in the spotlight during WMU Humanities Center season

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News

Yann Martel's "Life of Pi"

KALAMAZOO, Mich.--The healing arts will be under the microscope when the University Center for the Humanities rolls out its 2014-15 Healing Arts Speaker Series.

The series is designed to nurture a conversation among scientists, humanists, social scientists, artists, politicians and citizens from all perspectives who live together in a changing world.

The series begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, in Miller Auditorium with a presentation by international best-selling author Yann Martel, whose book "Life of Pi" won the 2002 Man Booker Prize and became an academy award-winning motion picture. His talk, titled "Healing Journeys: Crossing the Pacific, Dealing with Trauma," is free and open to the public and will be followed by a book signing. The book "Life of Pi" has been selected as the 2014-15 University Common Read.

Those attending the event may park free in WMU lots 33 and 34 and in Parking Structure 2 near Miller Auditorium.

Yann Martel

Martel, who lives in Montreal, uses the power of fiction to explore the larger truths of the universe. In addition to the Man Booker Prize, he has won the 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction as well as the 2001-03 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

Martel was born in Spain, and his first language is French, but writes in English. The son of diplomats, Martel was raised in Costa Rica, France, Mexico and Alaska, in addition to Canada.

"Life of Pi," published in 2001, is his fourth book. He was inspired to write a story about sharing a lifeboat with a large cat after reading a review of the novella "Max and the Cats" by Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar. Martel's first book, "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios and Other Stories," a collection of four short stories, was published in 1993. His first novel, "Self," was published three years later. His other novels include "We Ate the Children Last" and "Beatrice and Virgil," which deals with the Holocaust.

Martel attended Trent University from 1981 to 1984, but graduated from Concordia University with a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1985. He considered a career in politics or anthropology and worked a variety of odd jobs before committing himself to writing at age 27. He has said in several interviews that Dante's "Divine Comedy" is the single most impressive book he has ever read.

"Life of Pi" tells the story of Pi Patel, the son of a zookeeper. Pi has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks, and Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger.

Healing Arts Speaker Series

Martel's talk is one of five lectures planned for "The Healing Arts" series. Other upcoming series presentation dates, speakers, times, locations and titles of their talks include:

  • Nov. 6: Michael Pollan, award-winning writer and food advocate, 7:30 p.m., Miller Auditorium, "A Community Conversation about Food."
  • Jan. 29: Nellie Hermann, creative director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, 7 p.m., Dalton Center Recital Hall, "Creative Writing and the Clinical Encounter: Narrative and the Capacity for Empathy."
  • March 19: Ed Roth, WMU associate professor of music, 7 p.m., Dalton Center Recital Hall, "The Neuroscience of Music in Health and Healing."
  • April 2: Arthur Kleinman, professor of medical anthropology in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, 7 p.m., Shaw Theatre, "Caregiving and the Moral Experience."

For more information, email the Center for the Humanities at wmu-humanities@wmich.edu or call the center at (269) 387-1811.

For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.