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‘Song of Myself’ Events to Explore Memoir-Writing

Series, Led by UML Donahue Professor, to Span Coming Years

Philosophy Prof. John Kaag Photo by Tory Germann
Philosophy Professor John Kaag has been named UMass Lowell’s 2022 Nancy L. Donahue Endowed Professor in the Arts. 
  

12/08/2022

Media contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations, Emily_GowdeyBackus@uml.edu and Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

A new event series poised to welcome esteemed writers to UMass Lowell aims to engage students and the public in telling their own stories.

“Song of Myself: Culture, Diversity and Creativity,” will provide a forum for participants to learn from each other through writing workshops and question-and-answer sessions with journalists and published authors, according to UMass Lowell’s John Kaag, a philosophy professor whose idea for the series prompted his appointment as the university’s 2022 Nancy L. Donahue Endowed Professor in the Arts. 

“This Donahue speaker series is about how artists and writers express themselves in a culture in crisis,” said Kaag. “Finding your voice is hard – and the speakers and professors who come to Lowell this year and next to interact with participants will definitely help.” 

Kaag is the author of “American Philosophy: A Love Story,” and “Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are.” Published in 2016 and 2018 respectively, both were named NPR’s best books of the year and the former, The New York Times Editor’s Choice. Since then, Kaag’s writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal among other media outlets. 

Guided by what he calls a “team of master storytellers,” Kaag hopes participants come away with the passion to pursue their own tales.

“When I was a student, I always wanted to talk to a New York Times editor, or my favorite host on NPR – to see how the sausage was made, so to speak. I didn't get that opportunity, but many students, thanks to the Donahue endowment will,” he said. 

That chance will come this week, when the university will welcome Peter Catapano, The New York Times’ senior opinion editor, for a roundtable discussion on essay and memoir writing and editing. Catapano, who studied under fiction writer Jonathan Baumbach and poet Allen Ginsberg, edited The Stone, a long-running New York Times online forum for philosophers, and co-edited several books and essays. A pioneer of the online series format, he received a Publisher’s Award in 2008 for those efforts.

Joining Catapano for the program will be UMass Lowell English professors Andre Dubus III and Sandra Lim. Dubus has met with critical acclaim for his novels – including “House of Sand and Fog,” which became a film starring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley – his memoir, “Townie,” and a pair of short story collections. Lim is the author of three books of poetry: “The Curious Thing;” “The Wilderness,” winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; and “Loveliest Grotesque.” Among several honors, she was selected as a Guggenheim Fellow last year.

Free and open to the public, the event will be held Friday, Dec. 9, from 3 to 5 p.m. at O’Leary Library, located on UMass Lowell’s South Campus at 61 Wilder St., Lowell. Free parking will be available across the street from the venue. 

Prior to the program, Catapano will make a guest appearance at lala Books, where he will read from and discuss his edited volume “The Stone Reader.” That session will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the bookstore, located at 189 Market St., Lowell.

UMass Lowell’s “Song of Myself” series is supported by the Nancy L. Donahue Endowed Professorship in the Arts, established by Merrimack Valley philanthropist Nancy Donahue in 2009.  

“The support Nancy Donahue has provided means we get to invite the most dynamic, compassionate and innovative artists and thinkers to the UMass Lowell community. Our students deserve the best and that is what the Donahue Professorship is all about,” Kaag said.

Members of the public who would like more information should email Carolyn_Brooks@uml.edu.

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu