The Troy Lectures on the Humanities and Public Life are presented in honor of the late Frederick S. (Barney) Troy, Emeritus Professor of English, honorary professor of the University and former trustee.
The list of past speakers is singularly distinguished, and includes Nadine Gordimer, Sherman Alexie, Margaret Atwood, Judith Butler, J.M. Coetzee, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka and Zadie Smith.
Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad (winner of the 2016 National Book Award and 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, Harlem Shuffle, and The Colossus of New York. He was named New York’s 11th State Author in 2018. His New York Times bestseller The Nickel Boys won the 2020 Pultizer Prize for Fiction, the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Fiction, and the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Whitehead will give the Troy Lecture on April 13, 2023.
Anne McClintock is the A. Barton Hepburn Professor in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University. McClintock’s interdisciplinary and transnational work—both scholarly and creative—explores the intersections between race, gender and sexualities; imperialism and globalization, including Indigenous studies; visual culture and mass media; sexual and gender violence; militarization, climate chaos, and animal studies. On April 14, 2022, McClintock delivered her talk titled "Monster. A Fuge in Fire and Ice."
Natasha Trethewey (MFA '95) is two-time U.S. Poet Laureate a won the Pulitzer Prize for her 2006 collection of poetry, Native Guard. Domestic Work (2000), Trethewey's first published collection, won the inaugural Cave Canem prize for a first book by an African American poet. She holds honorary doctorates from her undergraduate alma mater, Delta State University, and from Hollins University. On October 3, 2019, Trethewey presented her talk titled "'You are Not Safe in Science; You Are Not Safe in History': On Abiding Metaphors and Finding a Calling."
Anna Deavere Smith is a playwright, actor, and professor. The MacArthur Foundation honored Smith with a so-called “genius grant” for creating “a new form of theater — a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.” On March 27, 2017, she performed her work Doing Time in Education: School-to-Prison Pipeline, which explores the cycle of suspension from school to incarceration prevalent in low-income communities and highlights issues of community, character, and diversity in America.
Viet Thanh Nguyen is an acclaimed author, 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner, 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, and 2017 MacArthur Fellow. His novel The Sympathizer (2015) won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, while Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (2016) was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. Nguyen is also the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (2012) and The Refugees (2017). On November 15, 2017, Viet Thanh Nguyen delivered a talk titled “War, Fiction, and the Ethics of Memory.”
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a world-renowned African writer, novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist, editor, academic and social activist. Winnder of multiple honors, including the prestigious Nonino International Prize for literature, he is Distinguished Professor of Comparitive Literature and English, University of California, Irvine. On April 7, 2016, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o presented a talk titled “James Joyce and the English Metaphysical Empire.”
Orhan Pamuk is the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 2014, the Troy Lecture series presented "A Conversation with Orhan Pamuk.”
On December 5, 2013, Zadie Smith presented "Why Write?"
Junot Díaz, the MIT writing professor widely acclaimed for his vivid, inventive works of fiction, has recently been awarded a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship. The MacArthur Foundation cited Díaz for his stories that use "raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose to draw readers into the various and distinct worlds that immigrants must straddle." Díaz presented "Fear and Control and the Challenge of Writing" on November 1, 2012.
Judith Butler delivered a talk titled "Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street" on November 17, 2011.
Colm Tóibín, author of The Master and Brooklyn, has just published The Empty Family, a collection of short stories. Hermione Lee described Tóibín as "a fine lyricist of exile, yearning and regret" (The Guardian). He is currently Leonard Milberg Lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University. On December 2, 2012, Tóibín presented "The End of the Family: Jane Austen and the Victorian Novel."
Author, poet, and screenwriter Sherman Alexie was named one of The New Yorker's 20 top writers for the 21st century. The New York Times Book Review described him as "one of the major lyric voices of our time." Men's Journal has called him "the world's first fast-talking and wisecracking mediagenic American-Indian superstar."
He wrote and produced the film, Smoke Signals, based on his book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which won the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. In 2002 Alexie made his directorial debut with The Business of Fancydancing. On December 3, 2009, Alexie presented "The Business of Fancydancing" at UMass Amherst.
The Sunday Times called Margaret Atwood "...one of the most inventive, enthralling and accomplished authors writing in English." On November 6, 2008, Atwood delivered the talk "A Precision of Language."
Salman Rushdie presented "Heraclitus, or, Character and Destiny" on September 21, 2006.
Professor Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory and John Rylands Fellow at the University of Manchester. Amongst his notable books are The Body as Language: Outline of a New Left Theology; Marxism and Literary Criticism; Literary Theory: An Introduction; Walter Benjamin or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism; Ideology: An Introduction; The Gatekeeper: A Memoir; Sweet Violence; and After Theory. On September 27, 2005, Eagleton presented "Tragedy & Terror."
J. M. Coetzee
On October 22, 2003, J. M. Coetzee delivered a talk "At the Gate: A Reading."
Jamaica Kincaid presented a reading with commentary at UMass Amherst on September 17, 2002.