The California State University, Fresno Armenian Studies Program and William Saroyan Society presented “William Saroyan at 100,” a symposium dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of the author on Saturday, April 5, in the University Business Center on the Fresno State campus.
Dr. Dickran Kouymjian, Director of the Armenian Studies Program opened the symposium and emphasized the importance of holding such scholarly events. William Saroyan Society President John Kallenberg then welcomed guests.
The symposium was organized into two thematic panels. The first panel, chaired by Dr. Kouymjian, included presentations by Debashis Bandyopadhyay (Presidency College, Kolkata, India), speaking on “Identity in Abject Space: Conceptualizing Normalcy in the Works of William Saroyan and Ruskin Bond”; Micah Jendian (San Diego State University), presenting “William Saroyan’s Enduring Vision”; and Harry Keyishian (Fairleigh Dickinson University), speaking on “William Saroyan, Icon: Samson Raphaelson’s Jason and Saroyan’s Cultural Significance, 1942.”
Bandyopadhyay’s paper discussed the similarities in outlook of Saroyan and author Ruskin Bond. Micah Jendian’s paper looked at how the critics treated Saroyan and how Saroyan reacted to those charges. Harry Keyishian discusses Saroyan as a cultural icon in America, and how there were differing opinions of his reputation.
Following a coffee break, Barlow Der Mugrdechian of the Armenian Studies Program chaired the second panel that included presentations by Michael Kovacs (Gavilan College), presenting on “Saroyan One Hundred Years Later: Let’s Nibble at Some Sweet Saroyan” and H. Aram Veeser (The City College of New York) speaking on “Saroyan’s ‘Late Style.’”
Kovacs paper examined Saroyan’s writing in the context of the Beat Generation movement, upon which Saroyan had much influence. Aram Veeser compared Saroyan’s work with that of Beethoven, finding interesting similarities in their approach to music and literature.
Each speaker presented a differing perspective on Saroyan, whose centennial of his birth is being celebrated in the year 2008 with a variety of activities. The many theoretical and analytical papers reflected the fact that there is a need for more in-depth study of the great American writer.
The opportunity for the scholars to gather provided an excellent forum to reassess some views on Saroyan’s writings. The symposium was organized by Dr. Dickran Kouymjian and Barlow Der Mugrdechian.