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2011 News Releases

Novelist Mat Johnson to receive Longwood’s Dos Passos Prize

September 9, 2011

Mat Johnson

American novelist Mat Johnson will be awarded the 2011 John Dos Passos Prize for Literature at Longwood University on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Johnson will receive the prize during a brief ceremony beginning at 8 p.m. in Molnar Recital Hall in Wygal, followed by a reading by the author and a dessert reception at 9 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

A member of the University of Houston's creative writing program, Johnson is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including two graphic novels. Typically combining humor, poignancy and suspense, Johnson's work explores issues of race and identity and historical and contemporary America.

"We are honored to recognize Mat Johnson for his many significant contributions to American literature," said Dr. David Magill, assistant professor of English at Longwood and chair of this year's Dos Passos Committee. "Few writers are as provocative yet entertaining when it comes to addressing the history and present state of racial identity and of race relations in the United States."

Johnson will reads from Pym following the award ceremony. His most recent novel narrates the story of a recently-fired literature professor who leads an all-black crew of novice adventurers to the Antarctic in a search for the island setting of Edgar Allan Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

Pym has been well received by critics since its appearance in March

American novelist Mat Johnson will be awarded the 2011 John Dos Passos Prize for Literature at Longwood University on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Johnson will receive the prize during a brief ceremony beginning at 8 p.m. in Wygal Auditorium, followed by a reading by the author and a dessert reception at 9 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

A member of the University of Houston's creative writing program, Johnson is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including two graphic novels. Typically combining humor, poignancy and suspense, Johnson's work explores issues of race and identity and historical and contemporary America.

"We are honored to recognize Mat Johnson for his many significant contributions to American literature," said Dr. David Magill, assistant professor of English at Longwood and chair of this year's Dos Passos Committee. "Few writers are as provocative yet entertaining when it comes to addressing the history and present state of racial identity and of race relations in the United States."

Johnson will read from Pym following the award ceremony. His most recent novel narrates the story of a recently-fired literature professor who leads an all-black crew of novice adventurers to the Antarctic in a search for the island setting of Edgar Allan Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

Pym has been well received by critics since its appearance in March 2011. Adam Mansbach of the New York Times Book Review called it "relentlessly entertaining," adding that it's "no easy task to balance social satire against life-threatening adventure, the allegory against the gory, but Johnson's hand is steady and his ability to play against Poe's text masterly...The book is...an uproarious and hard-driving journey."

The John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, founded at Longwood in 1980, honors this talented but overlooked American writer of the early 20th century by recognizing contemporary writers in his name. Recipients are American creative writers who have produced a substantial body of work that displays characteristics of Dos Passos' writing: an intense and original exploration of specifically American themes, an experimental approach to form, and an interest in a wide range of human experiences.

"Johnson exemplifies the award criteria," Magill said. "Few writers are as simultaneously diverse, original, and successful as he is. His forays into graphic novels, historical nonfiction, and comic adventure demonstrate his mastery of form and narrative."

Past recipients of the Dos Passos Prize include Jill McCorkle, Maxine Hong Kingston, Annie Proulx, Shelby Foote, Tom Wolfe and Graham Greene. In 2010 Percival Everett was awarded the prize, which includes a $2,000 cash award and a medal.

The Dos Passos Prize is administered by a committee from Longwood's Department of English and Modern Languages. Primary funding is provided by the Carson and Sharon Coulter '63 Gibb Fund, held by the Longwood University Foundation Inc. Other funding is provided by Longwood's Office of Academic Affairs, the Cook-Cole College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of English and Modern Languages.

2011. Adam Mansbach of the New York Times Book Review called it "relentlessly entertaining," adding that it's "no easy task to balance social satire against life-threatening adventure, the allegory against the gory, but Johnson's hand is steady and his ability to play against Poe's text masterly...The book is...an uproarious and hard-driving journey."

The John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, founded at Longwood in 1980, honors this talent but overlooked American writer of the early 20th century by recognizing contemporary writers in his name. Recipients are American creative writers who have produced a substantial body of work that displays characteristics of Dos Passos' writing: an intense and original exploration of specifically American themes, an experimental approach to form, and an interest in a wide range of human experiences.

"Johnson exemplifies the award criteria," Magill said. "Few writers are as simultaneously diverse, original, and successful as he is. His forays into graphic novels, historical nonfiction, and comic adventure demonstrate his mastery of form and narrative."

Past recipients of the Dos Passos Prize include Jill McCorkle, Maxine Hong Kinston, Annie Proulx, Shelby Foote, Tom Wolfe and Graham Greene. In 2010 Percival Everett was awarded the prize, which includes a $2,000 cash award and a medal.

The Dos Passos Prize is administered by a committee from Longwood's Department of English and Modern Languages. Primary funding is provided by the Carson and Sharon Coulter '63 Gibb Fund, held by the Longwood University Foundation Inc. Other funding is provided by Longwood's Office of Academic Affairs, the Cook-Cole College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of English and Modern Languages.