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Noted Author to Teach Course on Biography

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November 02, 2012
Neal Gabler, one of America’s most accomplished biographers and public intellectuals, will be in residence at Washington College for the Spring 2013 semester and will teach a course on “The Art of Biography.”

Gabler is an author, cultural historian, screenwriter, producer, film and media critic, and commentator who has been called “one of America’s most important public intellectuals.” He has written prizewinning biographies of Walt Disney, Walter Winchell, and early Hollywood movie moguls and is now at work on a book about the late Senator Edward Kennedy and modern American politics. He has won many awards, including an Emmy, two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Gabler’s first book, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. His second book, Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named the non-fiction book of the year by Time magazine. His third book, Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, has been used in college courses across the country to examine the convergence of reality and entertainment. And his most recent book, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, a New York Times  best-seller, was named the biography of the year by USA Today  and won Mr. Gabler his second Los Angeles Times  Book Prize.

As a visiting fellow at the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, Gabler will work on Against the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Tortuous Course of American Liberalism, the first major biography of the late senator, which will be published by the Crown/Harmony division of Random House.

“This is an exceptional opportunity for Washington College students to learn from one of America’s most acclaimed contemporary masters of biography,” said historian and journalist Adam Goodheart, the director of the Starr Center, where Gabler will be a Patrick Henry Writing Fellow. “Studying biography with Neal Gabler is like having Michael Phelps as your swim coach.”

Mr. Gabler was graduated with high distinction and highest honors from the University of Michigan and holds advanced degrees in film and American culture. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Penn State, and SUNY Stony Brook.

The texts for his “The Art of Biography” course will include Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph Ellis; Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro; Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin; Joe DiMaggio: The Heros Life, by Richard Ben Cramer; and Diane Arbus, by Patricia Bosworth. Students also will learn techniques for finding and dealing with original materials, conducting interviews, taking notes, organizing data and outlining a book. The semester will culminate with each student undertaking a biography of a major figure of his or her choosing.

Launched by the Starr Center in 2008, the Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship aims to encourage reflection on the links between American history and contemporary culture, and to foster the literary art of historical writing. It is co-sponsored by the Rose O’Neill Literary House, Washington College’s center for literature and the literary arts. 

The fellowship’s funding is permanently endowed as part of a $2.5 million challenge grant package that the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded through its nationwide “We the People” initiative for strengthening the teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture. A generous gift was received from the Barksdale-Dabney-Patrick Henry Family Foundation, which was established by the Nuttle family of Talbot County, direct descendants of the patriot Patrick Henry.The Starr Foundation, the Hodson Trust and other donors have provided further support for the fellowship.

Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Based in the Custom House along the colonial waterfront, the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience fosters the art of written history and explores our nation’s past—particularly the legacy of its Founding era—in innovative ways, through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach. For more information on the Center and the Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.


Last modified on Nov. 9th, 2012 at 2:52pm by CRM Lindsay Bergman.