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Members of the Class of 2004 will read 'Metamorphosis' for the Penn Reading Project. Imagine falling asleep and waking up a giant insect. For the Class of 2004, this will be their first official Penn assignment. Marking the 10th year of the Penn Reading Project, incoming freshmen will read Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis -- the chronicle of Gregor Samsa, a young man who wakes to discover he has been transformed into a giant vermin. The program assigns all freshmen a single text to read before arriving on campus, and students are then divided into small groups to discuss the reading during New Student Orientation. "For these students, PRP represents their introduction to intellectual life at the University and to the engagement with faculty which they will experience throughout their years at Penn," Associate Director of College Houses and Academic Services David Fox explained in an e-mail statement. The Metamorphosis, published in 1915, tracks Samsa as he struggles with the new identity his transformation introduces. Fox -- who sat on the committee that selected the book -- said that the work was chosen because it touched on themes that were especially relevant to students entering college today. He called the book an "important document about the development of a kind of modern consciousness." "Those just seem to be the kinds of themes to talk about," he said, adding that the book was also a good selection because of its interdisciplinary nature and broad appeal. "The students who haven't read it before will be introduced to a remarkable work, and the students who have read it already will see how a research institution can bring remarkable new insight," Fox added. He also said that the committee would design other events related to the book, such as lectures and symposia. "The whole community is excited for the possibility of events surrounding the book," he explained. Kafka's book was selected by a committee -- chaired by Deputy Provost Peter Conn -- that included faculty representatives from all four undergraduate schools and one student member. According to Fox, The Metamorphosis was chosen from a final list of four books, including A Prayer for the City, an account of former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell's first term in office written by Penn graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger. Although the details as to how students will receive the book are uncertain, Fox said that the books would most likely be mailed to freshmen during the summer. Last year, incoming freshmen read Copenhagen, a play by Michael Frayn that examines a meeting between key figures in the race to build the atomic bomb during World War II. Students have also read Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior and Gary Wills' Lincoln at Gettysburg in past years of the Penn Reading Project.

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