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ENRICH-0316 – Lit: Author John Williams Celebration (ENRICH-0316_JWMS)

The Undeniable Genius of John Williams: Stoner and the Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel

William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen. Eight years later, during the height of World War I, he received his doctor of Philosophy degree and accepted an instructorship at the same university, where he taught until his death in 1956. He did not rise above the rank of assistant professor, and few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses.

So begins former University of Denver English professor John Williams’ quiet masterpiece, Stoner, the story of an unremarkable scholar and his unremarkable life. The novel was published in 1965 and was out of print a year later. Williams, who authored three other books, enjoyed minimal commercial and critical success before his death in 1994. But thanks to a French author who recognized Williams’ exquisite prose, the book was reissued in 2006 in Europe and soon hit the bestseller lists, followed by acclaim in the U.S.

Critic Morris Dickstein called Stoner “a perfect novel … [that] takes your breath away.” One of Williams’ colleagues also said in a recent biography, “How could such a son of a bitch have such talent?” Revered or reviled, Williams’ gift as a novelist was undeniable.

This celebration, on the 55th anniversary of Stoner’s publication, honors the novelist and his masterpiece with a day of sessions at DU (lunch break on your own) followed by an optional dinner and program. John Williams’ son, Jonathan, will attend this event.

William Zaranka, PhD - Observations on Williams as a Teacher and Novelist. Zaranka, who taught at DU in the Creative Writing program, shares insights from 20-plus years of personal and professional interactions with Williams and speaks of the novelist’s philosophy of creative writing.

Joe Nigg, PhD - My Mentor: Williams’ Lessons on the Life of a Writer. Nigg, an award-winning author, offers lessons he learned from Williams on pursuing a writing career, the power of passion and a belief in the essential truth of one’s own words.

Anne Marie Candido - Williams’ Archives: The Final Legacy. Candido, who organized Williams’ special collection at the University of Arkansas and worked with him for months, shares her reflections on his greatest novel, and what she found most revealing about Williams.

Alan Prendergast, Keynote - John Williams: Artist of the Plain. Prendergast, an investigative journalist, offers a critical look at the austere and subversive storytelling of Stoner.

Please note: A panel Q&A session with the speakers will conclude the day’s sessions.

Conference coordinators Sally Stich (DU ’72) and Sally Kurtzman have coordinated many writing conferences, and each taught literature and writing at the college level for 30 years.

One-day conference
Sat., Mar. 28, 2020, 9 am-4 pm, followed by optional dinner*
Location: Room 281/Lindsay Auditorium, Sturm Hall, DU campus

*Daytime conference attendees are also eligible for dinner registration. Please register for the dinner separately.

A discounted room rate of $119 is available at the Courtyard by Marriott Denver Cherry Creek for reservations made by Feb. 29, 2020. Hotel reservations may be made through this link: DU Literary Conference
Course Details
Location: University ParkMode of Study: In-personPlaces Left: 10Waitlist Places Left: 10Fee: $175


Days of the WeekStart DateEnd DateTimeVenueInstructor
Saturday28th March 202028th March 202009:00AM - 04:00PMSturm HallN/A