Former students recall Robinson’s influence on their careers

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Friday, September 23, 2016

In her 25 years at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Professor Emerita Marilynne Robinson taught hundreds of students, including the workshop’s current director, Lan Samantha Chang. Robinson’s influence extends well beyond her immense service to the University of Iowa: She is a highly demanded speaker on literature, theology, and political concerns.

marilynne robinson at reception
Marilynne Robinson

A Pulitzer Prize–winning author, Robinson will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction on Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 9, in Iowa City, noted former students, including Ayana Mathis and Paul Harding, will read selections of Robinson’s work at a public gathering to celebrate her receipt of the award, as well as her many years of teaching.

Robinson is the author of four novels: Lila (2014), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; Home (2008), winner of the Orange Prize (U.K.) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Gilead (2004), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Housekeeping (1980), winner of PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction. Her five nonfiction books include The Givenness of Things: Essays (2015) and The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998).

Recent recipients of the Library of Congress prize include Louise Erdrich (2015), E. L. Doctorow (2014), and Don DeLillo (2013).

Upon the announcement of Robinson’s retirement last spring, Iowa Now interviewed six former students about her influence on their writing. Listen to their inspiring accounts here:

Ayana Mathis
Author, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Assistant Professor of English
Graduate, Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Lan Samantha Chang
Author, Everything is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost
Professor of English
Director and Graduate, Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Marcus Burke
Author, Team Seven
Graduate, Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Fatima Mirza
Teaching and Writing Fellow and Graduate, Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Kevin Smith
UI Provost’s Postgraduate Visiting Writer in Fiction
Graduate, Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Magogodi Makhene
Graduate, Iowa Writers’ Workshop