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Leon Levy Biography Lecture

Each year, the Leon Levy Center for Biography selects a biographer of undoubted stature to deliver a lecture on the process of researching and writing biography. The Leon Levy Biography Lecture has been delivered by Robert A. Caro, Ron Chernow, David Levering Lewis, Robert H. Massie, Stacy Schiff, and Hilary Spurling.

 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

 


 
2014 Leon Levy Biography Lecture

Richard Holmes

Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 6:30 p.m.
Harold M. Proshansky Auditorium


Richard Holmes has made his mark in two fields, literary biography and science writing. He transfigured the way the Romantic poets are written about with his first book, Shelley: The Pursuit (1974), of which The New York Times noted, "If the art of biography was ever damned, Shelley: The Pursuit redeemed it." He is best known for his definitive two-volume biography: Coleridge: Early Visions (1989, winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award) and Coleridge: Darker Reflections. His other books include Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (which Stacy Schiff has called a book every biographer secretly wishes he'd written), Sidetracks, and Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage (winner of the James Tait Black Prize). After ten years of teaching, he published his international bestseller, The Age of Wonder, which won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent book is Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air. Holmes is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the British Academy. In 1992, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE).  

Free and open to the public. Registration required. RSVP here

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2013 Leon Levy Biography Lecture

David Levering Lewis

Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 6:30 p.m.
Harold M. Proshansky Auditorium
 

David Levering Lewis is Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History, Emeritus, at New York University. Twice the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, for each volume of W.E.B. DuBois (an unrivaled feat), Lewis has received the Bancroft Prize, the Francis Parkman Prize, fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur foundations, and the National Humanities Medal, which was presented to him by President Obama. His other books include the first biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (King), God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, and a classic history of Harlem, When Harlem Was in Vogue. He is currently completing a biography of Wendell Willkie.

View the video of the 2013 Leon Levy Biography Lecture.

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2012 Leon Levy Biography Lecture

Robert K. Massie

Monday, September 24, 2012, 7 p.m.
Harold M. Proshansky Auditorium


Robert K. Massie is the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Russian history and the author most recently of Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, which won the 2012 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-Fiction, and the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. Born in Kentucky and raised in Tennessee, Massie studied at Yale and at Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Massie's first book, Nicholas and Alexandra, published in 1967 and translated into 17 languages, was a New York Times bestseller for 46 weeks, and became an Academy Award-winning film. His book Peter the Great: His Life and World won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1981, and became an Emmy Award-winning television mini-series. Massie is also the author of Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War; Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany and the Winning of the Great War at Sea; and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter.  

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2011 Leon Levy Biography Lecture

Hilary Spurling

Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 7 p.m.
Proshansky Auditorium


The Fourth Annual Leon Levy Biography Lecture featured distinguished author Hilary Spurling. Born in 1940 and educated at Somerville College, Oxford University, Ms. Spurling has written biographies of Ivy Compton-Burnett, Paul Scott, Sonia Orwell and Henri Matisse in 2 volumes, which won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Los Angeles Times biography prize in 2005. She is a CBE, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and founder of the Royal Literary Society's Writers Fellowship scheme. Her latest book is Pearl Buck in China, of which The New York Times writes, "Hilary Spurling approaches Buck's life the way an art restorer approaches a serious but neglected painting. She clears away decades' worth of grime, repairs some buckling, smoothes out a bit of flaking craquelure. The resulting portrait ... has an absorbing glow."


(Photo by Graeme Robertson)  

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2010 Leon Levy Biography Lecture

Ron Chernow

Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 7 p.m.
Harold M. Proshansky Auditorium
 

Mr. Chernow has written The House of Morgan, which won a National Book Award, The Warburgs, which was cited by the American Library Association as one of the year's ten best books in 1993, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award and praised by The Times of London as "one of the great American biographies," and Alexander Hamilton, which won a George Washington Book Prize for the year's best book about the founding era. The New York Times has called Mr. Chernow "as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decades." A frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Chernow is a familiar figure on national radio and television shows—he has appeared on C-Span, CNN, the History Channel, and National Public Radio, and in numerous documentaries. And in 2010, his Washington: A Life, a rare single volume, full-length portrait of George Washington, was released by Penguin Press and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

(Author photo by Sigrid Estrada)  

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2009 Leon Levy Biography Lecture

Robert A. Caro

September 29, 2009, 7 p.m.
Elebash Recital Hall


Robert A. Caro, the master biographer of Robert Moses and Lyndon Baines Johnson, gave the Second Annual Leon Levy Biography Lecture in 2009. Caro is the author of The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York and The Years of Lyndon Johnson, whose first three published volumes are The Path to Power, Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate. Mr. Caro was then at work on the fourth volume, The Passage of Power, an examination of Johnson's years in the White House, published to great acclaim in 2012. Caro's biographies of Moses and Johnson have garnered numerous honors, incluing two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography, two National Book Critics Circle Awards for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, the National Book Award, the Gold Medal in Biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians to the book that best "exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist." The Boston Globe notes that "Caro has a unique place among American political biographers. He has become, in many ways, the standard by which his fellows are measured." A graduate of Princeton University, Caro has been a Holtzbrinck Distinguished Visitor at The American Academy in Berlin, a Carnegie Fellow at Columbia University, and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.  

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2008 Leon Levy Biography Lecture

Stacy Schiff

November 5, 2008, 7 p.m.
The Skylight Room


Stacy Schiff gave the inaugural Leon Levy Lecture on Biography, speaking on the process of researching and writing her biography Cleopatra: A Life, at the time a work-in-progress, published in 2010 by Little, Brown. Schiff is also the author of A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, which won the 2005 George Washington Book Prize, the Ambassador Award in American Studies, and the InstitutFrançais's Gilbert Chinard Prize. She received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), published by Random House. Her first book, Saint-Exupéry, published by Knopf in 1994, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the recipient of numerous awards abroad.

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