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2016 Annual Conference on Biography


Biography: Point of View

Tuesday, March 8, 2016
1 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Elebash Recital Hall


RSVP by email to biography@gc.cuny.edu


1 p.m. - 2 p.m. On Memoir
D.T. Max (Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace), with Ada Calhoun (St Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street), Margo Jefferson (Negroland: A Memoir) and Daniel Menaker (My Mistake).

2:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. The Lives of Orson Welles
Gary Giddins (Warning Shadows: Home Alone With Classic Cinema), with Josh Karp (Orson Welles's Last Movie), Patrick McGilligan (Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to 'Citizen Kane'), and David Nasaw (The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst).

3:45 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. 'Out of the Shadows': Writing Forgotten Women's Lives
Annalyn Swan (de Kooning: An American Master), with Lisa Cohen (All We Know: Three Lives), Cathy Curtis (Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter), and Hayden Herrera (Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo)

5 p.m. - 6 p.m. William Kelly (Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries, The New York Public Library) discusses Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley with their biographer, Peter Guralnick (Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'N' Roll).
 

 


Speakers

Calhoun
Ada Calhoun is the author of St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street, the critically acclaimed book about the New York street where she was born and raised. She has been a crime reporter for the New York Post, a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review, and an essayist for New York magazine, The New Yorker online, and The New York Times.


Cohen
Lisa Cohen is the author of All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, BOMB, The Paris Review, Vogue, The New Yorker online, Bookforum, and elsewhere. She is the Bennet Associate Professor of English at Wesleyan University.

Curtis
Cathy Curtis is the author of Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter, a biography of a New York artist whose life was a rollercoaster of struggle, triumph, neglect, and rediscovery. A former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, Curtis is an alumna of Smith College and the University of California, Berkeley. Her next book, Quicksilver: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning, will inaugurate the Oxford Cultural Biographies series.


Giddins
Gary Giddins wrote the “Weather Bird” jazz column in the Village Voice for 30 years, and is the Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center, where he also teaches. His books include Riding on a Blue Note, Rhythm-a-Ning, Faces in the Crowd, Satchmo, Visions of Jazz, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, Weather Bird, Natural Selection, Jazz (with Scott DeVeaux), and Warning Shadows: Home Alone with Classic Cinema. His new edition of Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker was published in 2013 by the University of Minnesota.


Guralnick
Peter Guralnick has been called “a national resource” by critic Nat Hentoff for work that has argued passionately and persuasively for the vitality of this country’s intertwined black and white musical traditions. His books include the prize-winning two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love; Sweet Soul Music; and Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. His latest work, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, has just been published.


Herrera
Hayden Herrera is an art historian and biographer who earned her Ph.D. at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, as well as Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, and Matisse: A Portrait. Her most recent book is Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi.

Jefferson
Margo Jefferson is a professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts, and she was for years a theater and book critic for Newsweek and The New York Times, where she won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s, The New Republic, New York magazine, Vogue, and other publications, and she is the author of On Michael Jackson. Her most recent book is Negroland: A Memoir.


Karp
Josh Karp is the author of three books, most recently Orson Welles’s Last Movie. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Salon, and many other publications. Karp is currently developing a television pilot with Touchy Feely Productions and a film version of Orson Welles’s Last Movie for Beech Hill Films. He lives near Chicago with his wife and four sons.



Kelly
William P. Kelly is the New York Public Library’s Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries, former interim chancellor of the City University of New York and president of the Graduate Center, and the current chairman of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is the author of Plotting America’s Past: Fenimore Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales, and of the forthcoming book Astoria: John Jacob Astor, the West, and the World

Max
D.T. Max is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Family That Couldn’t Sleep: A Medical Mystery, and Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, which he completed as a fellow of the Leon Levy Center for Biography and which was a New York Times bestseller named by many critics as one of the best books of 2012. He is currently a Guggeheim Fellow at work on The Most Conspicuous Person on the Planet, a book about Mark Twain. Last semester he was the Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton.

McGilligan
Patrick McGilligan is the author of Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to ‘Citizen Kane,’ named one of the best books of 2015 by the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. He is also the author of Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light; Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast; and George Cukor: A Double Life; and books on the lives of directors Nicholas Ray, Robert Altman, and Oscar Micheaux, and actors James Cagney, Jack Nicholson, and Clint Eastwood. 



Menaker
Daniel Menaker edited fiction at The New Yorker for twenty years. In 2004 he was named Editor-in-Chief of Random House. He is the author of six books, most recently a memoir, My Mistake, and he has twice won the O. Henry Award for short fiction.


Nasaw
David Nasaw is the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History at the Graduate Center, co-founder of the Leon Levy Center for Biography and a member of its Advisory Board, and a past president of the Society of American Historians. He is the author of Andrew Carnegie, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, winner of the Bancroft Prize; and The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize named by many critics as one of the best books of 2012.

Swan
Annalyn Swan is the author, with Mark Stevens, of de Kooning: An American Master, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, the National Book Critics Circle prize for biography, the Los Angeles Times biography award, and was named one of the 10 best books of 2005 by The New York Times. She and Stevens are currently working on a biography of the British artist Francis Bacon. Swan is a member of the LLCB Advisory Board and a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Center, where she teaches a master’s course on the art of biography.

 

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2014 Annual Conference on Biography


Biography in its Time
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
1 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Elebash Recital Hall 

Please click titles for links to videos

1 p.m. - 2 p.m.  Telling Musical Lives
Gary Giddins (Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, Celebrating Bird), moderator. Thomas Brothers (Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism), Paul de Barros (Shall We Play That One Together?: The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland), Robert Hilburn (Johnny Cash: The Life).

2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.  Biography and Literary Theory
Elisabeth Sifton (No Ordinary Men), moderator. Evelyn Barish (The Double Life of Paul de Man), Caryl Emerson (Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics).

4 p.m. - 5 p.m.  American Writers: The Fragility of Fame
Jay Parini (One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner), moderator. Hans Bak (The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley, 1915-1987), Susan Cheever (E.E. Cummings: A Poet's Life), Dorothy Gallagher (Lillian Hellman: An Imperious Life).

5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.  Biographers and History
Simon Winchester (The Men Who United the States), moderator. David Nasaw (The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy), Amanda Vaill (Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War), Brenda Wineapple (Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877).

 

 


Speakers

Bak
Hans Bak 
is professor of American Literature and American Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. He is the author of Malcolm Cowley: The Formative Years, and the editor of Writing Lives: American Biography and Autobiography, and The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley, 1915-1987, published in December 2013 by Harvard.


Barish
Evelyn Barish 
is a professor emerita of English at The Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island, CUNY, and the author of Emerson: The Roots of Prophesy, for which she won the Christian Gauss Award. Her biography The Double Life of Paul de Man was published in 2014 by W.W. Norton & Company.


Brothers
Thomas Brothers 
is a professor of music at Duke University, where he teaches jazz, rock, African-American music and late medieval music. He is the author of, among other books, Louis Armstrong's New OrleansLouis Armstrong: In His Own Words, and Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, published in 2014 by W.W. Norton & Company.


Cheever
Susan Cheever 
is the author of American BloomsburyLouisa May AlcottHome Before Dark: A Biographical Memoir of John Cheever by His Daughter, and many other books. Her biography E.E. Cummings: A Poet's Life was published in February 2014 by Random House. She is now working on a narrative history of alcoholism, Drinking in America: Our Secret History.


deBarros
Paul de Barros
 is has covered jazz and world music in Seattle for over 35 years, almost all of that time for the Seattle Times, although he also freelances widely. He is the author of Shall We Play That One Together?: The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland, published by St. Martin's Press.


Emerson
Caryl Emerson 
is is the A. Watson Armour III University Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University. Her work has focused on Mikhail Bakhtin, 19th c. Russian classics (Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky), opera, vocal, and incidental music. Her current projects include recuperation of the modernist Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Her books include Boris GodunovThe Life of Musorgsky, and The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature.

Gallagher
Dorothy Gallagher
 is author of Hannah's Daughters, a history of six generations of an American family; All the Right Enemies, a biography of the Italian-American anarchist Carlo Tresca; and two memoirs, How I Came Into My Inheritance and Strangers in the House. Her biography Lillian Hellman: An Imperious Life was published in February 2014 by Yale University Press.


Giddins
Gary Giddins
 wrote the "Weather Bird" jazz column in the Village Voice for 30 years, and is the Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center, where he also teaches. His books include Riding on a Blue NoteRhythm-a-NingFaces in the CrowdSatchmoVisions of JazzBing Crosby: A Pocketful of DreamsWeather BirdNatural SelectionJazz (with Scott DeVeaux), and Warning Shadows: Home Alone with Classic Cinema. His new edition of Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker was published in 2013 by the University of Minnesota.



Hilburn
Robert Hilburn 
was the pop music critic and editor of the Los Angeles Times from 1970-2005. He is the author of a memoir, Corn Flakes with John Lennon and Other Tales from a Rock 'n' Roll Life, and his 2013 biography Johnny Cash: The Life, published by Little, Brown and Company, was named by many critics as one of the best books of 2013.

Nasaw
David Nasaw 
is Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History at the Graduate Center, and co-founder of the Leon Levy Center for Biography. He is the author of Andrew Carnegie, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, winner of the Bancroft Prize, and The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize named by many critics as one of the best books of 2012.


Parini
Jay Parini
, a poet, novelist, and biographer, is Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College. He has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, and Jesus. His biographical novels include Benjamin's CrossingThe Passages of H.M., and The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Last Year, which was made into a major Hollywood film in 2009.



Sifton
Elisabeth Sifton 
has been an editor and book publisher for many decades. She is the author of The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War, about the background to the famous prayer written by her father, Reinhold Niebuhr, and, with Fritz Stern, of No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State, published in 2013 by New York Review Books. 


Vaill
Amanda Vaill
 is the author of the bestselling Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy - A Lost Generation Love Story, and Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins. Her new book, Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War, a work of narrative historical nonfiction, published in April 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Winchester
Simon Winchester 
is the author of many books, including the bestsellers The Professor and the MadmanAtlanticThe Man Who Loved ChinaA Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa. In 2006 he was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. His newest book is The Men Who United the States, published by HarperCollins in 2013.


Wineapple

Brenda Wineapple, former Distinguished Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, teaches in the MFA programs at The New School and Columbia University's School of the Arts. She is the author of White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth HigginsonGenêt: A Biography of Janet FlannerSister Brother: Gertrude and Leon Stein, and Hawthorne: A Life. Her newest book, Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877, published by HarperCollins, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2013. 

 

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2013 Annual Conference on Biography


Writing Writers' Lives

Monday, March 18, 2013
1 p.m. - 7:15 p.m.
Elebash Recital Hall


The Leon Levy Center for Biography is proud to present its 5th Annual Conference, "Writing Writers' Lives," with Hermione Lee in conversation with Gary Giddins, and panel discussions featuring sixteen eminent biographers: Blake BaileyGreg BellowR.B. BernsteinJeffrey S. CramerEric FonerRuth FranklinAnnette Gordon-ReedAlice Kessler-HarrisRichard LingemanMegan MarshallJohn MattesonPeter S. OnufDavid S. ReynoldsJoshua Rubenstein, Carol Sklenicka, and Steven Weitzman. Discussions will range from Biblical poets to the founding fathers to 20th century literary giants.

See the complete schedule, videos, and biographies of speakers for the 2013 Annual Conference on Biography.

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2012 Annual Conference on Biography


Varieties of Biography

Thursday, March 29, 2012
11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Elebash Recital Hall


The Leon Levy Center for Biography is proud to present its 4th Annual Conference, "Varieties of Biography," featuring novelist E.L. Doctorow and 15 eminent biographers, including Sylvia Nasar, Debby Applegate, Brad Gooch, and John Matteson, as well as graphic artists such as underground comics innovator Kim Deitch. Lectures and panel discussions will cover topics ranging from writing ancient biography to the uses of biography in contemporary fiction.

The full roster of biographers includes Gary Giddins, Neil Baldwin, David Evanier, Margo Jefferson, James Kaplan, Nancy Milford, James Miller, James Romm, Amanda Vaill, Katharina Volk, and Geoffrey Wolff, and graphic artists Miriam Katin, Matt Madden, Lauren Redniss, and Ariel Schrag.

See the complete schedule and biographies of speakers for the 2012 Annual Conference on Biography.

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2011 Annual Conference on Biography

Compromising Positions: Biography & Ethics

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Noon - 6:30 p.m.
Elebash Recital Hall


From The Aspern Papers to twenty-first century privacy issues: this year's annual conference focuses on the ethical questions that every biographer confronts. Featured participants include award-winning Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman and, most recently, Atlantic: The Biography of an Ocean.

Other speakers and panelists: Rachel Cohen, Scott Donaldson, Martin Duberman, Dorothy Gallagher, Brad Gooch, Rochelle Gurstein, Phoebe Hoban, Frances Kiernan, Honor Moore, David Nasaw, Mark Oppenheimer, John Palattella, Daniel Sharfstein, Alex Star, and more.

See the complete schedule and list of speakers for the 2011 Annual Conference on Biography.  

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2010 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).

See the complete schedule and list of speakers for the 2010 Annual Conference on Biography.  

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2009 Annual Conference on Biography

New Forms: Biography for the 21st Century

Thursday, March 26, 2009
1:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Elebash Recital Hall


The first annual conference on biography at The Leon Levy Center for Biography will explore biography in all of its many guises. The conference schedule begins with a film screening and features talks by biographers working in a variety of genre and disciplines, ranging from literary biography and jazz studies to curatorial science.

See the complete schedule and list of speakers for the 2009 Annual Conference on Biography.  

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