Jonathan Lethem Appointed Disney Professor of Creative Writing at Pomona College
Nationally recognized author Jonathan Lethem has been selected as the Roy Edward Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College. In 2009, Salon named his novel Fortress of Solitude one of the decade’s ten best fiction books, and The New York Times called Chronic City one of the 10 best books of the year.
Lethem’s appointment to Pomona College is expected to be formally approved in May at the College’s Board of Trustees meeting. He will begin teaching in Spring 2011 semester and will teach three courses a year, both an introductory and advanced creative writing workshop as well as a topic based seminar.
A prolific writer, Lethem is the author of the eight novels and five short story collections, as well as a collection of essays, a comic and a novella. His book Motherless Brooklyn (1999) won a National Book Critics’ Circle Award and a Salon Book Award. He is also the author of Gun, with Occasional Music (1994); Amnesia Moon (1995); As She Climbed Across the Table (1997); Girl in Landscape (1998); Fortress of Solitude (2003); You Don’t Love Me Yet (2007); and Chronic City (2009). His comic, Omega the Unknown, was published in 2007. He is the editor of The Vintage Book of Amnesia (2001) and the 2002 Da Capo Best Music Writing: The Year’s Finest Writing on Rock, pop, Jazz, Country and More. He has contributed essays to Rolling Stone, Harper’s Magazine, Bookforum, and Salon.com.
The search for the next Disney professor resulted in about 75 applications for the position and ultimately brought three candidates to campus. Each taught a demonstration writing workshop, gave a reading and met with students and faculty.
For Prof. Kevin Dettmar, chair of the English Department, what stood out about Lethem was the wide range of interests and energies he brings to the position. “The breadth of his writing is wonderful. He’s written not just a body of important contemporary fiction, but has written brilliantly about contemporary popular culture. He’s also been really important in conversations about issues of copyright, public domain and plagiarism. With students, he’s warm and engaging. He got students talking to one another, but wasn’t shy about putting things on the table and sharing his experience."
Julius Taranto ’12, one of two student members on the selection committee, has long been a fan of Lethem’s writing. “He’s a stunningly creative mind and a wonderful writer. What we didn’t know was whether he could teach. After taking his sample class, I think he’s a phenomenal choice. His workshop was sophisticated, and he was really paying attention to and engaged with the students."
The Disney professorship was endowed by Roy E. Disney, a graduate of the Pomona class of 1951. From 2002 to 2008, the position was held by author David Foster Wallace.
Pomona College, located in Claremont, CA, is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges.