Michael Pollan to receive Washington University Humanities Medal Nov. 20

Celebrated food writer to receive biannual award during faculty book colloquium

Celebrated food writer Michael Pollan will receive the Washington University Humanities Medal as part of “Celebrating Our Books, Recognizing Our Authors,” the university’s seventh annual faculty book colloquium.

Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan

The biannual award is given to a distinguished scholar, writer or artist whose career merits special recognition for excellence and courage. The inaugural recipient was Turkish novelist and Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk, who received the honor in 2006. The award is supported by the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences and Olin Library; and by a gift from Dr. David and Phyllis Wilson Grossman

In addition to receiving the Humanities Medal, Pollan will deliver a keynote address for “Celebrating Our Books.” The event — which begins at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, in Graham Chapel — also will feature presentations by two Washington University faculty members: Beata Grant, Ph.D., professor of Chinese and director of Religious Studies, both in Arts & Sciences; and Patrick Burke, Ph.D., assistant professor of music in Arts & Sciences. Grant’s most recent book is Eminent Nuns: Women Chan Masters of Seventeenth-Century China (2008). Burke is the author of Come In and Hear the Truth: Jazz and Race on 52nd Street (2008).

“Celebrating Our Books” is free and open to the public but seating is limited and RSVPs are strongly encouraged. Graham Chapel is located immediately north of the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

In addition, the Washington University Campus Store will display 116 faculty books published over the last five years, along with volumes by Pollan, in the Commons and Grand Staircase areas of the Danforth University Center. All books will be available for purchase, and Pollan as well as many faculty members will be available after the colloquium to sign their works.

Beata Grant
Beata Grant

For more information about the colloquium or for parking stickers, call (314) 935-5576 or email cenhum@wustl.edu.

Pollan is the author of five books, most recently the bestseller In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008), which examines the seemingly simply yet often difficult question of what, from the perspective of health, to eat. His previous volume, Omnivore’s Dilemma, was named one of the 10 best books of 2006 by The New York Times and the Washington Post. It also won the James Beard Foundation’s 2007 award for best food writing.

Pollan’s other books include Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (1991), The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001), A Place of My Own (1997) and Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006). He currently serves as the Knight Professor of Journalism at University of California-Berkeley, where he also directs the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and a former executive editor for Harper’s Magazine.

Patrick Burke, Ph.D.
Patrick Burke, Ph.D.

Grant’s first two books, Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns (2003) and The Red Brush: Women Writers of Imperial China (2004), examined Chinese female literature. Eminent Nuns breaks new ground in detailing the lives and contributions of 17th century female Chan masters. Based largely on the nuns’ own writings and self-representations, the book draws on a collection of rarely seen “discourse records,” or yulu, relating to seven officially designated Chan masters. Materials range from letters, religious sermons and religious exchanges to poems, prose pieces and biographical and autobiographical accounts.

Burke’s research centers on music of the United States, especially jazz, with a focus on issues of race and ethnicity. Come In and Hear the Truth investigates the vibrant musical and social collaborations and competitions that animated Manhattan’s 52nd Street jazz clubs during the 1930s and 1940s. By drawing on the methods and theories of historical musicology and ethnomusicology as well as on the insights of black cultural studies and American studies, the book reflects a commitment to an interdisciplinary, socially and historically grounded approach to African American music.

Calendar Summary

WHO: Washington University in St. Louis

WHAT: “Celebrating Our Books, Recognizing Our Authors,” the seventh annual faculty book colloquium. Featuring presentations by Michael Pollan, recipient of the Washington University Humanities Medal; Beata Grant, author of is Eminent Nuns: Women Chan Masters of Seventeenth-Century China; and Patrick Burke, author of Come In and Hear the Truth: Jazz and Race on 52nd Street.

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20

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 in Arts & Sciences and Olin Library

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