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2013: Writing Writers' Lives

5th Annual Conference on Biography

Writing Writers' Lives

Monday, March 18 2013
1pm - 7:15pm
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 Bailey, Greg Bellow, R.B. Bernstein, Jeffrey S. Cramer, Eric Foner, Ruth Franklin, Annette Gordon-Reed, Alice Kessler-Harris, Richard Lingeman, Megan Marshall, John Matteson, Peter S. Onuf, David S. Reynolds, Joshua Rubenstein, Carol Sklenicka, and Steven Weitzman. Discussions will range from Biblical poets to the founding fathers to 20th century literary giants.




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1pm – 2pm       Writing the American Renaissance
John Matteson (The Lives of Margaret Fuller), moderator. Jeffrey S. Cramer (The Portable Thoreau, ed.), Megan Marshall (Margaret Fuller: A New American Life), David S. Reynolds (Walt Whitman’s America).

2:15pm – 3:15pm     Writing Jewish Lives
Ruth Franklin (Shirley Jackson), moderator. Greg Bellow (Saul Bellow’s Heart), Joshua Rubenstein (Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life), Steven Weitzman (Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom). Co-sponsored by the Jewish Lives series of Yale University Press.

3:30pm – 4:30pm     Hermione Lee in Conversation with Gary Giddins.

5pm – 6pm       American Modernists
Carol Sklenicka (Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life), moderator. Blake Bailey (Cheever: A Life), Alice Kessler-Harris (A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman), Richard Lingeman (American Journey: Theodore Dreiser).

6:15pm – 7:15pm         Founding Fathers as Literary Figures
Annette Gordon-Reed (The Hemingses of Monticello), moderator. R.B. Bernstein (Thomas Jefferson), Eric Foner (Tom Paine and Revolutionary America), Peter Onuf (The Mind of Thomas Jefferson).




Blake Bailey is the author of A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates, and Cheever: A Life, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Francis Parkman Prize, and a finalist for the Pulitzer and James Tait Black prizes. His new book, Farther & Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson, was just published by Knopf. He was recently chosen by Philip Roth to be his authorized biographer.

Greg Bellow, Ph.D., is the author of Saul Bellow's Heart: A Son's Memoir, his first book, published in April 2013 by Bloomsbury. A psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapist for four decades, he is a member of the Core Faculty of The Sanville Institute and lives in Redwood, California.

R.B. Bernstein is distinguished adjunct professor of law at New York Law School and adjunct professor of political science and history at City College of New York. In the 1980s, he was research curator for the Constitutional Bicentennial Project of The New York Public Library. His books include The Founding Fathers Reconsidered and Thomas Jefferson. He is now completing The Education of John Adams for Oxford University Press.

Jeffrey S. Cramer is the Curator of Collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. He is the editor of The Portable Thoreau, and the annotated editions of WaldenThe Maine Woods, and selections from Thoreau's journal. His edition of The Literary Way: Selected Essays of Henry D. Thoreau will be published later this year by Yale University Press.

Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. His more than two dozen books include Tom Paine and Revolutionary AmericaReconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, which won the Bancroft, Francis Parkman, and other prizes, Give Me Liberty! An American History, and The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, which won the 2011 Bancroft Prize, the Pulitzer Prize in history, and the Lincoln Prize.

Ruth Franklin is a senior editor at The New Republic and a fellow of the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Her literary criticism appears in many publications and her first book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, was a finalist for the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature. She is at work on a life of the writer Shirley Jackson.

Gary Giddins is Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography. He wrote the "Weather Bird" column in the Village Voice  for thirty years, winning six Deems Taylor Awards for Excellence in Music Criticism. His books include Visions of Jazz, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, Natural SelectionWarning ShadowsJazz (with Scott DeVeaux), and the biographies Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, which won the Ralph Gleason Award. His brief life of Charlie Parker, Celebrating Bird, will be published in a revised edition this fall by the University of Minnesota Press. He is working on the second volume of his Crosby life for Little, Brown.

Annette Gordon-Reed is Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School, Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her second book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, won the Pulitzer Prize in History and the National Book Award for Non-Fiction, among other honors. She was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Alice Kessler-Harris is R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History at Columbia University, specializing in the history of American labor and the study of women and gender. Her books include In Pursuit of EquityOut to Work, and A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman, a biography published last year by Bloomsbury Press.

Hermione Lee, a Commander of the British Empire and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the British Academy, is President of Wolfson College, Oxford. In 1998, she became the first woman Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature at Oxford. In addition to her celebrated biographies Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton, her books include critical studies of Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Philip Roth, and Willa Cather, and studies in the art of life-writing, Virginia Woolf's Nose and A Very Short Introduction to Biography. Her biography of Penelope Fitzgerald will be published this fall by Chatto & Windus.

Richard Lingeman is the author of ten books, including Theodore Dreiser, a two-volume biography, Sinclair Lewis: Rebel from Main Street, and Double Lives: American Writers' Friendships. His most recent book is The Noir Forties: The American People from Victory to Cold War, which he describes as "memoir in the form of history." He was executive editor of The Nation for many years and is now a senior editor of the magazine.

Megan Marshall teaches narrative nonfiction writing and the art of archival research in the MFA program at Emerson College. Her biography The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism won the Parkman Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her Margaret Fuller: A New American Life was just published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

John Matteson is the Deputy Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, and a Distinguished Professor of English at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who worked as a litigator before turning to literature. His first book, Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and his most recent biography, The Lives of Margaret Fuller, won the Ann M. Sperber Prize.

Peter S. Onuf is Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia and Senior Research Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Monticello. With Annette Gordon-Reed he is co-author of a forthcoming biography of Jefferson, Most Blessed of the Patriarchs, and co-host with Ed Ayers and Brian Balogh of the public radio program "BackStory with the American History Guys."

David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center, CUNY. His books include Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural BiographyBeneath the American Renaissance, Mightier than the Sword: 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and the Battle for America, and Faith in Fiction: The Emergence of Religious Literature in America. He is a winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Christian Gauss Award, the Ambassador Book Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Joshua Rubenstein is the Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International USA and an Associate at Harvard's Davis Center for Eurasian and Russian Studies. His several books on Soviet history include the biography Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya EhrenburgStalin's Secret ProgramThe Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories, and most recently, Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life, published by Yale Jewis Lives.

Carol Sklenicka is the author of D.H. Lawrence and the Child and Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life, named one of the best books of 2009 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Oregonian, and the Seattle Sun Times. She taught for many years in Wisconsin, and now lives with her husband, poet R.M. Ryan, in California. She is writing Much Love: The Life and Fiction of Alice Adams.

Steven Weitzman is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion at Stanford Universty and director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies. Trained at Harvard in Biblical, ancient Near Eastern and early Jewish literature, he co-authored The Jews: A History and has written Surviving SacrilegeSong and Story in Biblical Narrative, and the biography Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom, published by Yale Jewish Lives.