Acclaimed Author and McIlroy Family Visiting Professor Comes to Campus

Acclaimed author Jonathan Lethem.
John Lucas

Acclaimed author Jonathan Lethem.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Acclaimed author Jonathan Lethem, one of this years’ 2019-20 McIlroy Family Visiting Professors, is coming to campus to discuss his creative process and career as a novelist, essayist and short story writer.

Lethem will speak at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, in Hillside Auditorium, room 202. The event is free and open to the public. The program is part of the fall lecture series of the School of Art in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Lethem is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer. He is an award-winning, genre-defying fiction and nonfiction author of more than a dozen books, a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” and has rich background in the arts.

“Exposing our students to interdisciplinary artists is a priority within the School of Art,” said Gerry Snyder, executive director of the School of Art. “Our hope is to create a framework for students showcasing how writing can positively impact their artistic practice.”

As the son of the painter Richard Lethem and late political activist Judith Lethem, Jonathan Lethem is an author who understands and has written about various aspects of the artistic process.

“Everything I write is informed by genre traditions, which I love deeply,” Lethem said. “At the same time, I don’t think I’ve written without straining against genre boundaries, and I’ve often violated them outright. I think my work reveals traces of an extremely eclectic reading history, and my narrative is also particularly informed by film. But my dearest models are nearly all 20th-century Americans pursuing high art through popular forms.”

Lethem will be sharing more about his creative process during the Oct. 3 event in a discussion with University of Arkansas’ own Padma Viswanathan.

Viswanathan holds an M.A. in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Arizona. She teaches international fiction and fiction writing in the Department of English at Fulbright College.

Viswanathan and Lethem will discuss Lethem’s career, work and process, and then he will answer audience questions.

“Lethem’s writing engages themes involving art, appropriation, social practice and low versus high culture, and our School of Art students are currently learning the utilization of these themes,” said Marc Mitchell, associate professor of art. “It is an incredible opportunity to have Jonathan Lethem visit the U of A to speak to students of many disciplines as well as to individuals across the campus and community.”

About the McIlroy Family Visiting Professorship in the Visual and Performing Arts: The professorship, established in the university’s J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, supports the teaching and work of professional artists who impart highly specialized knowledge essential to students’ artistic, educational, and career enrichment and of value to the community at large. It was made possible through the philanthropy of Hayden and Mary Joe McIlroy and the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation.

About the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences: The J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most academically diverse unit on campus with three schools, 16 departments and 43 academic programs and research centers. The college provides the core curriculum for all University of Arkansas students and is named for J. William Fulbright, former university president and longtime U.S. senator.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3% of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Kayla Crenshaw, director of communications
School of Art

Andra Parrish Liwag, director of communications
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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