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Michael Chabon and Zadie Smith : "Shaping Human Understanding Through Literature and Humanities"

October 19, 2017

Award-winning writers Michael Chabon (“Wonderboys,” “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” and “Moonglow”) and Zadie Smith (“White Teeth,” “On Beauty, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays” and “Swing Time”) delivered the University of Utah’s Tanner Lecture on Human Values at Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Oct. 19, 2017.

In a conversation format, they addressed topics such as as creativity, argumentation, narrative, style and anger. They discussed the role of the novel and the essay in contemporary American life and the pressures of writing historical fiction. They also reflected upon the existential impact of reading and how exposure to diverse voices in literature can increase the scope of our imagination and enlarge our ideas about what it means to be human.

The following day, Smith and Chabon met with graduate students and faculty from the Department of English in the Tanner Humanities Center. They provided theoretical insight into mixed-genre writing, character development, narrative skill and depth, and cultural community. They also shared frank and practical advice about reading critically, conducting research, setting writing goals, recognizing life’s limitations and opportunities and revising wisely.

“We were honored to bring to campus such engaging writers of this caliber and reputation,” said Bob Goldberg, director of the Tanner Humanities Center. “They spoke eloquently about the role that literature and the humanities play in connecting readers to worlds different from their own, shaping human understanding and developing empathy.”

Sponsors and partners for these events included the Tanner Lecture Endowment, the Tanner Humanities Center, the College of Humanities, the Department of English, Utah Humanities and the King’s English Book Shop.


Last Updated: 9/14/21