2006 Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk to receive Washington University’s inaugural Distinguished Humanist Medal Nov. 27

Part of Center for the Humanities' fifth annual "Celebrating Our Books" colloquium

Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, will receive Washington University’s inaugural Distinguished Humanist Medal as part of “Celebrating Our Books, Recognizing Our Authors,” the university’s fifth annual faculty book colloquium.

Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk. High-res image available upon request.

The award — which includes a cash prize of $15,000 — is supported by the Center for the Humanities and the Office of International and Area Studies, both in Arts & Sciences. It will be given biannually to a distinguished scholar, writer or artist whose career merits special recognition for excellence and courage.

Pamuk will receive the Distinguished Humanist Medal and make a formal address during the colloquium, which honors the work of scholars from across the arts and sciences disciplines. The speech will subsequently be published in the university’s literary journal, Belles Lettres. Pamuk also will conduct a question-and-answer session before a select audience at Hurst Lounge earlier on the afternoon of his visit. This interview will be published in 2007 in the new graduate student on-line publication, Arch.

In addition to Pamuk’s talk, “Celebrating Our Books” will include presentations by two Washington University faculty members: John R. Bowen, Ph.D., the Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts & Sciences, most recently author of Why the French don’t Like Headscarves (2006); and Lingchei Letty Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor of modern Chinese language & literature, author of Writing Chinese: Reshaping Chinese Cultural Identity (2006).

Gerald Early, Ph.D., the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and director of the Center for the Humanities, noted that, “We bring Orhan Pamuk here not only to honor him for his achievements. but to show how much regard we have for Washington University faculty authors by having them share the stage with a writer of such international eminence. We very much want to showcase our writers and scholars.”

The colloquium begins at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27, in the university’s Graham Chapel. The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited and RSVPs are strongly encouraged. A reception and book signing will immediately follow in Holmes Lounge. The reception will include a display of all faculty books published in the last five years. In addition, the Campus Bookstore will display books by all three speakers, all of which will be available for purchase.

Graham Chapel is located immediately north of the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. Holmes Lounge is located in Duncker Hall, a short walk east of Graham Chapel.

For more information, call (314) 935-5576 or email cenhum@artsci.wustl.edu.

Born in 1952, Pamuk graduated from American Robert College in Istanbul and studied architecture at Istanbul Technical University before completing a degree in journalism from Istanbul University. At the age of 23 he decided to become a novelist and published his first book, Cevdet Bey and His Sons, seven years later. Now one of Turkey’s most prominent writers, his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

Pamuk made international headlines in 2005 when criminal charges were brought against him following a public statement he’d made about the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the massacre of 30,000 Kurds. (It is a crime in Turkey to publicly mention the Genocide.) Authors from around the world — including Salman Rushdie and John Updike — spoke out on Pamuk’s behalf and charges were dropped in January 2006.

In addition to Cevdet Bey, Pamuk is the author of The Silent House (1983), The White Castle (1985), The Black Book (1990) and The New Life (1994). The latter, about university students influenced by a mysterious book, is one of the most widely read novels in Turkish literature. His most recent books include My Name Is Red (1998), about Ottoman and Persian artists — his most popular work in English — as well as the political novel Snow (2002) and the memoir Istanbul (2005).

“Pamuk was chosen for the award late last spring in consultation with other faculty, well before he won the Nobel Prize,” Early points out. “James Wertsch and David Lawton were especially helpful as they both know Pamuk’s books very well. It was felt that Pamuk was not only a brilliant writer whose works provide us with fresh, important perspectives on the divide between east and west, but that his support of free speech in Turkey was a notable act. He was an ideal selection for the prize and he was happy to accept.”

Bowen’s research focuses on the role of cultural forms in processes of social change. His first three books — Muslims Through Discourse: Religion and Ritual in Gayo Society (1993), Critical Comparisons in Politics and Culture (1999) and Islam, Law and Equality in Indonesia: An Anthropology of Public Reasoning (2003) — examine issues of religion, culture and politics in Indonesia. In Why the French don’t Like Headscarves, he explores the French government’s 2004 decision to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs from public schools.

Chen’s Writing Chinese addresses complex issues surrounding the claim of “Chinese-ness” in our increasingly borderless world. Cutting across geographical boundaries, she challenging current discussions of hybridity and nationalism by examining the politics of Chinese cultural identity facing writers in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States. In the end, Writing Chinese proposes that the aesthetics of hybridization are key to developing a more open, creative and individualized notion of Chinese cultural identity.

Editor’s Note: A high-res photograph of Pamuk is available upon request.

Calendar Summary

WHO: Washington University in St. Louis

WHAT: “Celebrating Our Books, Recognizing Our Authors,” the fifth annual faculty book colloquium; featuring presentations by Orhan Pamuk, 2006 Nobel Prize winner in Literature and recipient of Washington University’s inaugural Distinguished Humanist Medal; John R. Bowen, author of Why the French don’t Like Headscarves; and Lingchei Letty Chen, author of Writing Chinese: Reshaping Chinese Cultural Identity

WHEN: 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27

WHERE: Graham Chapel, located immediately north of the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

COST: Free and open to the public, but seating is limited. RSVPs suggested.

SPONSOR: Center for the Humanities and Office of International and Area Studies, both in Arts & Sciences

INFORMATION: (314) 935-5576 or cenhum@artsci.wustl.edu