Pollan to receive Humanities Medal at faculty colloquium

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

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, Olin Library and by a gift from David A. Grossman, Ph.D., and his wife, Phyllis Wilson Grossman.

In addition to receiving the Humanities Medal, Pollan will deliver the keynote address for “Celebrating Our Books” at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 20 in Graham Chapel.

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, also will have presentations at the colloquium.

In conjunction with the Nov. 20 event, the Campus Store will display 116 faculty books published over the past five years — including the works of Pollan — in the Commons and Grand Staircase areas of the Danforth University Center.

All books will be available for purchase at the Campus Store, and Pollan and other faculty members will be available after the colloquium to sign their works.

Pollan is the author of five books, most recently the bestseller “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” (2008), which examines the seemingly simple yet often difficult question of what, from the perspective of health, to eat.

His previous volume, “Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals,” 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) and “A Place of My Own” (1997).

He 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 of Harper’s Magazine.

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” (2008) 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 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” (2008) 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.

“Celebrating Our Books” is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and RSVPs are strongly encouraged.

For more information about the colloquium, call 935-5576 or e-mail cenhum@wustl.edu.