2013-14 Writers Series

The University of Richmond’s Department of English will bring five writers to campus during the 2013­-14 academic year: three for its annual Writers Series and two for its Lecture Series. The Writers Series is designed to expose Richmond students, the greater university community, and city residents to some of today’s most celebrated writers. Their readings and the talks in the Lecture Series are free and open to the public. Most writers make themselves available, following their appearance, to answer questions from the audience and sign copies of their books.


Zadie Smith
Thursday, November 21, 7 p.m.
Brown-Alley Room, Weinstein Hall

Zadie Smith’s first two novels—White Teeth and The Autograph Man—were finalists for the Orange Prize before she received that award with her third book, On Beauty, in 2006. The child of a Jamaican mother and British father, Smith grew up in the working-class English suburb of Brent, and her fiction often focuses on the experience of non-Western immigrants in Western culture. London forms the backdrop for most of these works, including her most recent, NW, a New York Times notable book of 2012, but Smith’s writing ranges deftly across the globe, with On Beauty set principally in Boston. A stylistic chameleon, she seems comfortable in various modes, from comedy to minimalism to fractured postmodern narrative. Her literary achievements have twice won her recognition as one of Granta magazine's 20 Best Young Authors, and Time magazine listed White Teeth as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. Smith presently splits her time between London and New York, where she teaches fiction at New York University.

Lesléa Newman
Thursday, March 20, 4:30 p.m.
Keller Hall Reception Room

Lesléa Newman is the author of numerous novels, short stories, collections of poems, and works of nonfiction for adults as well as poetry, picture books, and fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, October Mourning, is a novel in verse that responds to the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard in 1998 and an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Her picture book, Heather Has Two Mommies, became one of the country’s most frequently challenged books for its depiction of lesbian mothers, a first in children’s literature. Formerly an apprentice to Allen Ginsburg, she currently teaches writing for children and young adults at Spalding University’s MFA in Writing Program. The title of her talk is “He Continues to Make a Difference: The Story of Matthew Shepard.” Lesléa Newman is the 2014 Trees Lecturer in the Department of English.
Newman’s talk is cosponsored by the Department of Education and One Book, One Campus.

Yusef Komunyakaa
Thursday, April 10, 7 p.m.
Keller Hall Reception Room

Yusef Komunyakaa’s seventeen books of poetry include Taboo, Dien Cai Dau, Neon Vernacular (for which he received the Pulitzer Prize), Warhorses, and most recently The Chameleon Couch and Testimony. His many honors include the William Faulkner Prize (Universite Rennes, France), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, and the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award. Much of his poetry springs from his childhood in Louisiana, his experiences during the Vietnam War, and his devotion to jazz. His plays, performance art, and libretti have been performed internationally and include Saturnalia, Testimony, and Gilgamesh. He teaches at New York University.

Lecture Series

Stephen Metcalf
Thursday, September 19, 4:30 p.m.
Brown-Alley Room, Weinstein Hall

Stephen Metcalf holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Virginia. After beginning the Ph.D program in English at Yale he left to pursue a freelance writing career; he has worked as a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton as well as publishing articles in New York magazine, Slate.com, and The Nation. As a cultural critic Metcalf’s writing frequently makes complex theory accessible to a mainstream audience; his Culture Gabfest podcast has recently discussed the compilation of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Brad Paisley’s collaboration with LL Cool J, “Accidental Racist,” and Stephen Colbert, to take three random examples. In each case the discussions are sophisticated without being esoteric; Metcalf’s work thereby demonstrates the value of a liberal arts education, remaining intellectual without being didactic.
Metcalf's talk is cosponsored by the American Studies Program.

Priscilla Gilman
Due to circumstances beyond our control, this event has been canceled and will not be rescheduled.

Gilman, a Yale Ph.D. and former professor at both Yale and Vassar, is the author of The Anti-Romantic Child: A Memoir of Unexpected Joy. The memoir details her experience raising her first child, whose surprising precocity as a reader was actually a symptom of a profound developmental disorder. Gilman’s memoir details her experiences through the English Romantic poetry, which was the subject of her doctoral dissertation; in her lecture she will focus on the place of poetry in the world both within and outside the academy.
Gilman's talk is cosponsored by the Department of Education.