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2010: The End of Biography

Annual Conference on Biography

Keynote Speaker: Arnold Rampersad

Friday, March 19, 2010
10:30am - 6:30pm
Elebash Recital Hall

The Leon Levy Center for Biography is pleased to announce that its annual Conference on Biography will take place on Friday, March 19th, 2010, at Elebash Recital Hall, The Graduate Center, CUNY, featuring acclaimed author and MacArthur Fellow, Arnold Rampersad, author of books on Ralph Ellison, Jackie Robinson, and a two-volume biography of Langston Hughes.

Other participants include Patricia Bosworth (Columbia, Becoming Jane Fonda), Catherine Clinton (Queens University Belfast, Mrs. Lincoln: A Life), Gary Giddins (CUNY, Jazz), Molly Haskell (film critic, Frankly, My Dear), Langdon Hammer (Yale, Hart Crane and Allen Tate), Richard Howard (Columbia, Pulitzer prize winning poet, translator, essayist), Caryn James (film critic, What Catherine Knew), D.T. Max (New Yorker, The Family that Couldn't Sleep), Jed Perl (art critic, The New Republic; Antoine’s Alphabet), Andrew Sarris (prize-winning film critic, The American Cinema), Eric Salzman (composer, The New Music Theater), Ileene Smith (editor-at-large, Yale University Press), Amanda Vaill (Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins), Steve Wasserman (literary agent, former editor of the LA Times Book Review), and Brenda Wineapple (Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson).




10:30 am – noon
Keynote: "The End of Biography"
Arnold Rampersad

12:15 pm - 1:15 pm
Biography on the Nonverbal
Gary Giddins, Jed Perl, & Amanda Vaill, moderated by Eric Salzman

1:15 pm
Lunch Break

2:15 pm – 3:00 pm
Poetry, Biography, James Merrill
Richard Howard and Langdon Hammer

3:15 pm – 4:00 pm
Biography and Publishing: The Biographical Series and Beyond
Ileene Smith and Steve Wasserman

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The Silver Screen: Directors, Film-makers, Biography, and the Sad State of the Biopic
Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris, moderated by Caryn James

5:15 pm – 6:00 pm
Culture and Anarchy; or, Biography and History
D.T. Max and Catherine Clinton

6:00 pm
"No Ideas but in People"
Closing remarks by Brenda Wineapple



Arnold Rampersad
Arnold Rampersad is Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at Stanford. His books include The Life of Langston Hughes (2 vols.), Jackie Robinson: A Biography, and Ralph Ellison: A Biography.

Patricia Bosworth
Patricia Bosworth's books include biographies of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and the photographer Diane Arbus as well as a memoir, Anything Your Little Heart Desires. She has taught at the Columbia School of Journalism and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. She has just completed Becoming Jane Fonda, to be published by Houghton Mifflin in April 2011.

Catherine Clinton
Catherine Clinton has published over twenty books, including several biographies – including Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom and Mrs. Lincoln: A Life – and recently, a graphic novel: Booth. She teaches and writes in Ireland where she holds a chair in U.S. history at Queens University Belfast.

Gary Giddins
Gary Giddins wrote the “Weather Bird” jazz column in the Village Voice for 30 years and served as artistic director of the American Jazz Orchestra, 1986-92. He teaches at the CUNY Graduate Center, and his books include Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, Celebrating Bird, Satchmo, Visions of Jazz, Natural Selection, Jazz, and Warning Shadows, which will appear
in April.

Langdon Hammer
Langdon Hammer is Professor of English and American Studies at Yale. He is writing a biography of James Merrill.

Molly Haskell
Molly Haskell is a film critic and author whose books include From Reverence to Rape: the Treatment of Women in the Movies; and, most recently, Frankly, My Dear: Gone with the Wind Revisited. She has taught at Columbia, Barnard, and Sarah Lawrence, and served as film critic for New York Magazine and Vogue.

Richard Howard
Richard Howard is a poet, translator and critic. He is a Professor of Practice in the School of the Arts at Colombia University (Writing Division).

Caryn James
Caryn James is the film critic for Marie Claire and contributes to Newsweek, The Daily Beast, The New York Times Book Review and others. Formerly a film and television critic for The New York Times and an editor at the Times Book Review, she is the author of such novels as What Caroline Knew.

D.T. Max
D.T. Max is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of The Family That Couldn’t Sleep: Unravelling a Medical Mystery. Last year he wrote “The Unfinished: David Foster Wallace’s Struggle to Surpass Infinite Jest,” which is the basis for the biography he is currently working on. He lives in Montclair, NJ with his wife, two children and a dog also named Max.

Jed Perl
Jed Perl is the art critic for The New Republic and the author of a number of books, including New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century, Antoine’s Alphabet: Watteau and His World, and Eyewitness: Reports from an Art World in Crisis. A visiting professor at The New School, he is currentlyworking on the first full-length biography of Alexander Calder, to be published by Knopf.

Eric Salzman
Eric Salzman is a writer and composer whose recent works include two music-theater pieces with Valeria Vasilevski, The True Last Words of Dutch Schultz; his Brecht Suite, taken from his score for a French language production of The Good Person of Sechuan, premiered in New York in 2009. He is the author, with Thomas Desi, of the recent New Music Theater, and he is currently artistic director of the Center for Contemporary Opera.

Andrew Sarris
Andrew Sarris is a professor of film history, theory and criticism at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He has written film criticism for more than fifty years, for Film Culture, The Village Voice and The New York Observer. His books include The American Cinema; The Films of Josef von Sternberg; Confessions of a Cultist; and You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: the American Talking Film: History and Memory, 1927-1949. He has won many awards and was the subject of a Festschrift, Citizen Sarris, American Film Critic.

Ileene Smith
Ileene Smith, a recipient of the PEN/Roger Klein Award and other editorial prizes, is editor at large for trade books at Yale University Press. This fall she will publish Robert Gottlieb’s Sarah: A Life of Sarah Bernhardt, as the launch of Jewish Lives, a major new series of biography.

Amanda Vaill
Amanda Vaill is author of Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy – A Lost Generation Love Story and Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins, as well as the screenplay for the Emmy-winning PBS documentary, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. She is currently at work on a new book, Hotel Florida: Love and Death in Spain, 1936-1939.

Steve Wasserman
Steve Wasserman, a director of literary agency Kneerim & Williams, is former editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review and principal architect of the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (1996-2005). Prior to joining the LA Times, Steve was for six years the editorial director of Times Books, and his authors/books included President Bill Clinton, Sister Souljah, and Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father.

Brenda Wineapple
Brenda Wineapple is Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography. Her most recent book, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. Her anthology Nineteenth-Century American Writers on Writing will appear next fall.