President's Lecture Series: Ernest Gaines, 23rd Annual ODU Literary Festival


Ernest Gaines

Document Type

Featured Participant

Festival Date



Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building - Auditorium

Author/Artist Bio

It is a special pleasure to recognize Ernest Gaines's participation in the 23rd Annual Old Dominion University Literary Festival as a Presidential Lecturer. He is one of our most important American writers, working in the tradition of James Weldon Johnson, Ralph Ellison, and Zora Neale Hurston.

The world into which Ernest Gaines was born -- on January 15, 1933 -- is essentially the world which he has distilled into the dense and complex world of his six novels and his stories. The land around River Lake Plantation -- near New Roads, Pointe Copuee, Louisiana, is the land around the Pichot Plantation, near Bayonne, St. Raphael Parish, presented in A Lesson Before Dying. The black community in which Gaines grew up became "the quarter" of his 1993 novel. It also provided the setting and social matrix of many of his previous works. A Lesson Before Dying won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, and was made into a movie, as was his novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Gaines was a Wallace Stegner, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundation fellow, and was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. As one critic remarked of the main character in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, "ln this woman Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure, a woman equipped to stand beside William Faulkner's Dilsey in The Sound And The Fury." Josh Greenfeld of Life described the novel as "Stunning. I know of no black novel about the South that exudes quite the same refreshing mix of wit and wrath, imagination and indignation, misery and poetry."


Gaines spoke on Thursday, October 5, 2000 at 8:00 p.m.

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