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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 5, 2010

Marilynne Robinson will present 2010 UI Presidential Lecture Feb. 14

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson, a faculty member in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, will present the 27th annual University of Iowa Presidential Lecture, "Being Here," at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14, in the 4th Floor Assembly Halls of the Levitt Center for University Advancement.

The event is free and the public is invited to attend.

UI President Sally Mason will introduce Robinson and a reception will follow in the Wyrick Rotunda. The program will include a musical prelude by the Matisse Trio -- UI School of Music faculty members Ksenia Nosikova, piano; Katie Wolfe, violin; and Anthony Arnone, cello -- performing a movement from the Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor by Robert Schumann.

The event will be recorded for broadcast on UITV and the audio will be archived on the Writing University Web site,

Robinson will discuss the effect that being at the UI has had on her life and literary career, and the careers of many others. She will also read excerpts from her novels that refer strongly to place.

Robinson was recently awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction -- the top international award for women writers -- for her third novel, "Home," the companion to her Pulitzer Prize-winning "Gilead." Both novels are set in a fictional Iowa small town.

In addition to winning the Pulitzer in 2005, "Gilead" won the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2005 Ambassador Book Award and it was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. "Home" was a finalist for the National Book Award and Robinson's first novel, "Housekeeping," was a Pulitzer finalist two decades ago, when it won the PEN/Hemingway Award. In the intervening years she wrote two nonfiction books, "Mother Country" and "The Death of Adam."

England's Salley Vickers wrote in the Independent, "There are very few novels written by living novelists that I wish I had written myself and Marilynne Robinson has written two of them. 'Gilead,' the extraordinarily beautiful, patient, scrupulous unfolding of the life of its elderly narrator, John Ames, a pastor in a small town in Iowa, was one. 'Home,' her latest, is even finer than its predecessor...

"The heart of this utterly absorbing, precisely observed, marvelous novel is the fumbling inadequacy of love, its inability to avert our terrible capacity to wound and maim, not even but especially, those nearest and dearest to us."

In 1998, Robinson was selected by the American Academy of Arts and Letters to receive a Strauss Living award, a five-year stipend totaling a quarter of a million dollars that was established to enable writers to focus entirely on their work without requiring other employment. The UI responded in a manner that is astonishing by the standards of most institutions: She was granted a five-year leave of absence.

But Robinson soon found that teaching had become an essential part of her life. After only 18 months on leave, she turned down the remainder of the stipend to return to the workshop.

The Presidential Lecture series provides an opportunity for distinguished faculty to present significant aspects of their work to members of the university community and to the general public. The university established this annual series to encourage intellectual communication among academic disciplines, and to provide a public forum for university scholarship, research and creative achievement. Learn more at

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires reasonable accommodations in order to participate in this program, please contact the President's Office in advance at 319-335-0011. The lecture will be interpreted in American Sign Language.

The Writers' Workshop and the UI School of Music are academic programs in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. More information about the workshop is available at Profiles of the musicians are accessible at

A high-resolution photo of Robinson is available at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Thomas K. Dean, president's office,; Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),