Playwright Arthur Miller, author of the internationally renowned "Death of a Salesman" and other modernist classics of the 20th-century American theater, has been named the 2001 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today. The annual NEH-sponsored Jefferson Lecture, which honors the cultural accomplishments of the third president of the United States, is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.
Among Miller's many awards are the 1984 Kennedy Center Honors and the 1991 Mellon Bank Award, both for lifetime achievement. His Pulitzer Prize-winning "Death of a Salesman" (1949), which has been produced in more than 30 countries, is a theater staple that assures Miller a prominent place among the world's great playwrights.
"Arthur Miller has reached millions of people throughout the world by his consummate skill as a playwright of extraordinary dramatic power and insight into the human condition," said NEH Chairman William Ferris. "His plays are cautionary tales that present the individual's struggle for dignity against forces of materialism and repression. His work is truly a mirror of modern life, and we are honored that he will be our 2001 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities."
Miller will present his lecture on Monday, March 26, 2001, at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The lecture is open to the public, and attendance is free. Those interested in attending should call (202) 606-8400 or send e-mail to @email to request an invitation.
Born in New York City in 1915, Arthur Miller began his playwriting career as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. Upon graduating in 1938, he went to work writing radio plays and scripts for the Federal Theater Project in New York City. He received national acclaim with "All My Sons" (1947) and his masterpiece, "Death of a Salesman." Both plays won the prestigious New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best American play of the year.
Miller's themes include the psychic devastation wrought by illusions and the threat to individual freedom by unjust authority. His corpus includes "The Crucible" (1953), "A Memory of Two Mondays" (1955), "A View from the Bridge" (1955), "After the Fall" (1964), "Incident at Vichy" (1964), "The Price" (1968), "The Creation of the World and Other Business" (1972) and "The American Clock" (1980). In 1987 he wrote a personal memoir, "Timebends: A Life," followed by the plays "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan" (1991), "The Last Yankee" (1993), "Broken Glass" (1993) and "Mr. Peters' Connections" (1998). His most recent book is "Echoes Down the Corridor: A Collection of Essays, 1947-1999" (2000).
Miller has received three Tony Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award, the National Institute of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for Drama, the New York Public Library's Literary Lion Award and the Pell Award for Excellence. He holds honorary doctorates from Harvard and Oxford universities.
Miller now lives in Connecticut with his wife, photographer Inge Morath, with whom he has published three books of photographs.
Miller was chosen as the 30th Jefferson Lecturer by the National Council on the Humanities, the 26-member advisory board of NEH. The lectureship carries a $10,000 honorarium.
Previous Jefferson Lecturers have been James M. McPherson, Caroline Walker Bynum, Bernard Bailyn, Stephen Toulmin, Toni Morrison, Vincent Scully, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Conquest, Bernard M.W. Knox, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Bernard Lewis, Walker Percy, Robert Nisbet, Forrest McDonald, Leszek Kolakowski, Cleanth Brooks, Sidney Hook, Jaroslav Pelikan, Emily T. Vermeule, Gerald Holton, Barbara Tuchman, Edward Shils, C. Vann Woodward, Saul Bellow, John Hope Franklin, Paul A. Freund, Robert Penn Warren, Erik Erikson and Lionel Trilling.