APRIL 1, 2015 – GEORGETOWN HAS RECEIVED A $4 million gift to permanently endow its Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice as it celebrates its 25th anniversary and presents its annual spring symposium – featuring renowned poets, writers, intellectuals and activists.
The gift, made by J. Patrick Lannan (C’60) and the Lannan Foundation, sets up the center as an interdisciplinary program housed in the President’s Office, where it may continue to focus on the intersection between literary practice and economic and social justice, human rights, literacy, cultural freedom, environmental activism and political dissidence.
“The Lannan Center has exceeded our expectations in recent years and, speaking with Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, I realized that it could serve a more important role by reaching across disciplines,” says Lannan. “This most recent gift will establish the center as an integral part of the university community and the D.C. literary landscape.”
The Lannan Foundation established the center in Georgetown’s English department in 1989 as a poetry series. The center later added a fellows program and special events with a mission to advance cultural freedom through the arts.
Literary luminaries such as Margaret Atwood, Derek Walcott, Mark Strand, Junot Díaz, Edwidge Dandicat and Dave Eggers are just a few writers who have participated in center programming in recent years.
SYMPOSIUM AND ENDOWMENT CELEBRATION
Georgetown celebrated the endowment during this year’s spring symposium, “In Nature’s Wake: The Art and Politics of Environmental Crisis,” that focuses on what poetry and the related arts might do to face challenges caused by climate change and other environmental damage.
The March 24-25 event featured writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben; award-winning writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit; environmental activist and author Chris Williams; former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass; and others.
REACHING ACROSS DISCIPLINES
Over the last 25 years, Lannan programming has encouraged dialogue on an array of topics – the environment, economic instability, world literary culture and government surveillance – while collaborating with the School of Foreign Service and the government, German, Spanish, Arabic studies and history departments, the justice and peace program and the Lecture Fund. Georgetown also has sponsored Lannan events with American University.
“Our entire community is so grateful to Mr. Lannan for his friendship, his long-term vision and his enduring commitment to strengthening our university,” says Provost Robert Groves. “With this most recent gift, the center will be strengthened as a university-wide resource for contemporary literary arts and the world republic of letters.”
In concert with the Folger Shakespeare Library, Georgetown’s Lannan Center offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of poetry as Lannan Fellows. Students participate in a reading series, informal seminars with published authors and receptions at which they can meet and mingle with artists and other figures from the D.C. literary community.
“The Lannan Foundation’s generous and visionary engagement has been an inspiration to us,” says Carolyn Forché, an award-winning poet and professor of English who has been the Lannan Center’s director since 2009. “This new endowment will sustain our work in perpetuity at Georgetown and in the community beyond our campus. And for that, we are deeply grateful.”
The Lannan Center also provides further literary exposure and engagement to the university community through its Lannan Visiting Chair of Poetics, which is currently held by MacArthur Fellow Dinaw Mengestu (C’00).
“Mengestu’s reputation has enabled us to attract some of the world’s leading poets and activists for our programs,” says Forché. “But more than that, we are excited to feature an alumnus who honed his craft here at Georgetown and believes that the advancement of cultural freedom is aligned with our Jesuit values of being ‘women and men for others.’ ”