Pulitzer-prize winning author Marilynne Robinson is well-known for her fiction, but she also has written extensively on the topic of faith and religion in public life. She will give a series of public lectures at the University of Virginia on “Our Public Conversation: How America Talks About Itself.”
The three lectures, scheduled for Feb. 23, 24 and 25 in Nau Hall 101, will be presented as part of the University’s historic Page-Barbour Lectures series. Robinson will give each talk at 5 p.m., to be followed by a reception.
Awarded a National Humanities Medal in 2012 by President Barack Obama for “her grace and intelligence in writing,” Robinson joins a distinguished list of novelists, cultural critics and prominent public figures who have delivered Page-Barbour Lectures. Lectures in this series have been presented by poets T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft, and psychologists B.F. Skinner and Robert Coles. More recent Page-Barbour lecturers included philosopher Richard Rorty, physicist Freeman Dyson, and anthropologist Maurice Godelier.
“The Page-Barbour Lectures have always sought to bring scholars and intellectuals who think big and in public. And there are few figures today who fit that description better than Marilynne Robinson,” said Chad Wellmon, chair of the Page-Barbour and James W. Richard Lecture Committee and an associate professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures. “Not only is she one of our greatest novelists, she is also one of our most engaged and imaginative thinkers. And in these lectures, she is going to challenge us to reflect on what it means to live and talk together at a time – in an election year – when the public seems so divided and the conversation seems so discordant.”
Robinson, who teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Iowa City, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel, “Gilead.” Set in a small Iowa town, the novel spans three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century and is narrated by a 76-year-old pastor in the form of a letter written to his young son.
Her other works include “Lila,” the 2014 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and a finalist for the National Book Award, and “Home,” also a finalist for the National Book Award. Her first novel, “Housekeeping,” won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.
Robinson’s nonfiction books include “When I Was a Child I Read Books,” “Absence of Mind,” “The Death of Adam” and “Mother Country,” nominated for a National Book Award. In November, The New York Review of Books published a series of conversations she had with President Obama.
The Page-Barbour Lectures series was founded in 1907 by Mrs. Thomas Nelson Page with the intent of inviting individuals who have specialized in a department of study relevant to the arts and sciences to annually address the University community with new ideas or thoughts germane to their fields. The series of talks delivered by each year’s lecturer are intended to be related in a sense that they possess such unity to be published in book form by the University.
The Page-Barbour Lectures are presented in combination with the James W. Richard Lectures, which also bring renowned academics to the University community to lecture within the fields of religion or history.