Hilton Als and Leslie Jamison Appointed to the Nonfiction Faculty of Columbia University School of the Arts’ Writing Program

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Hilton AlsCarol Becker, Dean of Faculty of Columbia University School of the Arts, announced the appointment of two acclaimed writers to the Faculty of the Arts: Hilton Als, Associate Professor of Writing, and Leslie Jamison, Assistant Professor of Writing.

“Hilton Als is one of the most exciting essayists and memoirists on the planet,” noted Phillip Lopate, Professor and Nonfiction Director for the graduate Writing Program at the School of the Arts. “His prose is fearless and free: to follow his unpredictable mind in books like The Women and White Girls is to be in thrall to an original thinker who lets it rip, regardless of the conventional pieties.  As a theatre critic, he demonstrates acute aesthetic sensitivity and casual erudition; his New Yorker pieces are a model of clarity and probity. We could not be more thrilled to have him join the Nonfiction Writing Program faculty, which is already quite strong. He will bring his unique perspective and experience to our eagerly waiting students.”

“The joy I feel at returning to Columbia thirty or so years after I left as a student verges on the ecstatic,” said Als, “which is not to say mystical: life has a way of returning one to one's beginnings, all in a bid, I think, to give back to those places and people who contributed to one's own maturity. I attended Columbia at a time when AIDS was just beginning to affect the student body; I lost a number of friends. I regard my appointment as a way of honoring their memory, and nurturing the young, curious, and vibrant who will go on to create their own rich and essential legacies.”

Lopate continues, “Leslie Jamison is a rising star in the nonfiction firmament. Her collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, was brilliantly written and struck a chord with thousands of readers. The title essay alone is an instant classic. She has already shown herself to be a dynamic, dedicated teacher, and we welcome her addition to the Nonfiction faculty with the utmost enthusiasm."

"I'm so thrilled to be joining the Columbia Writing faculty,” Jamison said. “Thrilled to work with colleagues whose writing I have been reading and admiring and teaching for years, thrilled to teach inspiring and dedicated students who also have so much to teach me, thrilled to become part of a program that I've admired deeply for a long time. I'm excited for the chance to build and sustain a community, to bring in provocative voices and speakers, and to think about the ways our work can connect to the broader world beyond our classrooms."

The Nonfiction concentration in the Writing Program at Columbia University School of the Arts includes full-time faculty Phillip Lopate, Margo Jefferson, Lis Harris, Patricia O’Toole and Richard Locke. The adjunct Nonfiction faculty includes Brenda Wineapple, Michael Greenberg, Benjamin Taylor, Amy Benson, Alana Newhouse, Daniel Bergner, Jay Neugeboren, Maureen Howard, Stephen O’Connor and Wendy Lesser, and recent visiting writers include Geoff Dyer, Patricia Hampl, Laura Kipnis, Wayne Koestenbaum, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Lia Purpura, Meghan Daum, Vivian Gornick and Patricia Marx.

The concentration offers instruction in a full range of subgenres, from memoir and personal essay to science writing, criticism, humor, research methods, profiles, food writing and lyric essay. All students engage with a range of nonfiction prose, from the Ancients to the most cutting-edge contemporaries. They leave the program able to practice more than one type of nonfiction.

“We are extremely proud to bring these uniquely fabulous writers onto our faculty,” said Dean Becker. “They are not just extraordinary creators of nonfiction with a profound range of interests and expertise; they are gifted teachers as well. I envy the many lucky students who will experience incredible joy studying with them.”

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.