The University has announced Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel as the speaker for the 2013 Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature at Emory University from Feb. 10-12.
Simon will be giving three lectures at Emory with the possibility of a short concert being added as a fourth event.
Former Emory English professor Ron Schuchard established the Ellmann Lectures in 1988 in honor of Richard Ellmann, Emory’s first Robert W. Woodruff professor from 1980 to 1987.
The lectures began as a way of promoting Emory’s name and reputation by bringing illustrious professors to campus to speak, Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing and Director of Lectures at Emory Joseph Skibell said.
The event consists of lectures and possibly a reading that is open to the public.
Students will be able to reserve tickets for the lectures beginning during the fall semester of the 2012-2013 school year.
The International Selection Committee for the Ellmann Lectures, comprised of five members including Skibell, decided on Simon after the idea of bringing in a songwriter to the lectures was settled upon, according to Skibell.
The other members of the committee include renowned author and former Ellmann lecturer Margaret Atwood and Sharon Green, associate professor at the University of Toronto, according to Skibell.
Skibell said he hoped that choosing a songwriter would emphasize to attendees the ever-changing world of literature.
He said that Simon could help showcase songwriting as a respectable form of literary work.
According to Skibell, the subjects of the lectures have yet to be decided, but one lecture will likely delve into historical antecedents of music created between 1966 and 1970.
Skibell explained that many forms of literature that are now well-respected, such as novels or plays, all had to go through a transformation in order to be taken seriously.
“All the forms that we think of as great literature often started out as being thought of as trashy,” Skibell said.
Songwriting is no exception to this pattern, and only recently has it begun to be viewed as being on the same caliber as other literature, according to Skibell.
Skibell explained that during the mid-1960s, there was “an explosion of the best and the brightest people who wanted to be songwriters.”
“If you track [Simon’s] songs, you see the whole culture and lifestyle of these people who are co-contemporaries of Paul Simon’s,” Skibell noted, also explaining how Simon’s songs provide a sort of soundtrack for the past few decades.
Skibell stressed the difficulty of finding a songwriter to speak at the Ellmann lectures without seeming “ridiculous” in comparison to the those who have spoken at the Ellmann Lectures in the past.
Previous speakers have included Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Mario Vargas Llosa, Umberto Eco and Margaret Atwood. Skibell expressed confidence that Simon is one of these songwriters.
— Contact Amanda Kline