Emory Report

Mar. 22, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 24

British author A.S. Byatt to deliver biennial Ellmann lectures

Booker and Whitbread Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt will deliver this year's Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature March 28-31. The title for her series is "Fathers, Forefathers, Ancestors: The Surprising Renaissance of the British Historical Novel." She describes her lectures as "a kind of field study by a practicing novelist of ways of writing about the past, which seem now possible, including history itself." She will look at the use of the immediate past as well as distant, imaginary pasts of 19th-century fiction seen through modern eyes and the recent explosion of contemporary British novelists delving into the past.

Byatt will give three public lectures and a reading/ booksigning. Also included in the series will be a panel discussion by Philip and Belinda Haas, who turned Byatt's novel Angels and Insects into a film.

Often described as a "postmodern Victorian," Byatt grew up in Sheffield, England, with her also-famous sister, novelist Margaret Drabble, and two other siblings. Sickly as a child--she had asthma and a near-fatal ovarian infection at age 10--Byatt read voraciously, once describing her childhood self as a "greedy reader." One of the first female graduates of Cambridge University, she did postgraduate work at Bryn Mawr College and at Oxford University's Somerville College. She published her first novel, Shadow of the Sun, in 1964. Greatly respected as a literary critic, reviewer, lecturer and novelist in the years after, her bestselling 1990 novel Possession made her an "overnight" sensation at age 54.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an active member of PEN and the Society of Authors, Byatt also was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Her lectures at Emory will include "Fathers: Recent Fiction of the World Wars," Sunday, March 28, at 4 p.m. in WHSCAB auditorium, and "Forefathers: Writing the Past--Writing History and Writing Fiction" and "Ancestors: Some Modern Darwinian Fictions" on March 29 and 30, respectively, at 8:15 p.m. in the Goizueta School auditorium. She will read from her work on Wednesday, March 31, at 8:15 in Glenn Auditorium. A booksigning will follow. Those who want signed books but cannot attend the reading can purchase books in advance at Lullwater Books and pick them up later.

The Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature were endowed in honor of the literary achievement of Richard Ellmann (1918-1987), who served as Emory's first Robert W. Woodruff Professor from 1980-87. Ellmann's public lectures were unparalleled in their appeal to a worldwide audience of readers; he always spoke in a language that invited the reader to share his personal engagement with serious literature. Lecturers are invited in that spirit by a panel of international scholars. Past lecturers and invited readers have included Seamus Heaney (1988), Denis Donoghue and Anthony Hecht (1990), Helen Vendler and Jorie Graham (1994), and Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Wole Soyinka (1996).

All events are free and open to the public. For additional information, call 404-727-6406 or send e-mail to <mchiric@emory.edu>.

--Deb Hammacher and Stacey Jones

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