The Mahindra Humanities Center has named prominent American novelist and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison the 2016 Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry.
As the Norton Professor, Morrison will give a series of six free lectures called “Baring Witness, Bearing Views” to begin next year on March 2 in Sanders Theatre.
Endowed in 1925 by Charles C. Stillman, class of 1898, the Norton Professorship is awarded to “individuals of extraordinary talent who, in addition to their particular expertise, have the gift of wide dissemination and wise expression,” according to the Mahindra Humanities Center website.
The Norton selection process considers poetry “interpreted in the broadest sense to encompass all poetic expression in language, music, or the fine arts,” according to the Harvard University Press website. Previous Norton Professors have included poet T.S. Eliot, class of 1910, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein ’39, and jazz artist Herbie Hancock.
A winner of a Nobel Prize for Literature, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Morrison is one of the most decorated living authors. She is the author of more than ten novels, including Beloved, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and the 1987 National American Book Award.
It will not be Morrison’s first appearance at Harvard. The octogenarian writer has given multiple previous talks on campus spanning a wide range of topics from advice on writing to good and evil in literature. Notably, Morrison delivered the Massey Lectures in 1992 which gave rise, in part, to her book of literary criticism, “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.”
Morrison was selected by the Norton committee, led by Professor Homi K. Bhabha, director of the Mahindra Center for the Humanities.
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Ruminating on Race, Toni Morrison Gives First Norton Lecture