Pulitzer Prize-winning author and noted critic will discuss American art
WASHINGTON (March 18, 2008)—John Updike, Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, poet, internationally-known author and critic, will deliver the 2008 Jefferson Lecture, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today. The annual NEH-sponsored Jefferson Lecture is the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.
Updike will present the 37th annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities on Thursday, May 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. In "The Clarity of Things," Updike will examine the connection between America's art and its ideas by posing the question, "What is American about American art?" Updike's lecture will complement the Endowment's new Picturing America  initiative, which brings great American art to schools and public libraries to help citizens learn about the people, events, and ideas that have shaped our nation's history.
"John Updike's discerning eye has made him an acute observer of American culture and art," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. "His fiction, prose, essays, and poetry over the years have provided invaluable insights into the human condition and into the humanities. The Endowment is proud to have one of the nation's most distinguished authors as our 37th Jefferson Lecturer."
John Updike is the author of more than fifty books—including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism—and is one of our nation's leading literary critics. He has published several books of art history and criticism including Just Looking: Essays on Art (1989) and Still Looking: Essays on American Art (2005). Recently, Updike has extended his views on art into his fictional work, chronicling the rise of American Expressionism after World War II in Seek My Face (2002). His new novel, The Widows of Eastwick, will be published this fall.
Updike's well-known series of novels about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom have brought him international acclaim and national recognition. Rabbit is Rich (1981) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 and Rabbit at Rest (1990) received that same honor in 1991. His novels also have won the National Book Award (1964, 1982), the American Book Award (1995), the National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction (1981, 1990), the Rosenthal Award (1960), the Howells Medal (1995), and the Campion Medal (1997). Updike received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2004 for The Early Stories 1953-1975 and the Rea Award for the Short Story in 2006 for significant contribution to the short story form.
From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker and has since served as a regular contributor. His reviews have appeared in The New York Review of Books and his poems in the Oxford American. Time magazine featured Updike on its cover in 1968 and 1982.
In recognition for his literary and critical work, John Updike was presented the National Humanities Medal by President Bush in 2003. Updike is one of the few Americans to receive both the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts, which he received in 1989.
John Updike was born in 1932 in Shillington, Pa. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. In 1957 he moved to Massachusetts, where he currently lives with his wife, Martha. He is the father of four children.
The Jefferson Lecture is the Endowment's most widely attended annual event. Past Jefferson Lecturers include Harvey Mansfield, Tom Wolfe, Helen Vendler, and David McCullough.
Tickets to the lecture are free of charge and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Ticket requests must be submitted by May 12th via the online form at www.neh.gov . All other inquiries, as well as ticket requests for persons lacking online access, may be directed to (202) 606-8446. The National Endowment for the Humanities gratefully acknowledges Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Smith for major support for this year's Jefferson Lecture.