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University of Iowa News Release

May 21, 2004

Blaise Receives Honorary Doctorate From McGill University

University of Iowa emeritus faculty member Clark Blaise, a UI alumnus who returned to direct the International Writing Program 1990-98, will receive an honorary doctorate from Montreal's McGill University on June 2. Blaise will also address the university's arts and religious studies commencement.

McGill, located in downtown Montreal, is Canada's leading research university. Blaise, who has joint U.S.-Canadian citizenship, lived for 13 years in Montreal, where he founded the writing program at Concordia University, based on the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is considered one of Canada's leading writers of both fiction and non-fiction.

Blaise was born in the United States and grew up primarily in Florida and Pennsylvania, but his Canadian heritage has always played a prominent role in his identity. He has written, "As a native-born American with foreign parents, and as a child who attended an average of two schools a year in 25 different cities, I grew up with an outsider's view of America and a romanticized exile's view of French Canada."

He graduated from Ohio's Denison University -- from which he has also received an honorary doctorate -- and he studied at Harvard with Bernard Malamud before coming to the UI to study in the Writers' Workshop, where he met and married writer Bharati Mukherjee.

He has said that the benefits of his student experience at the UI were "the time to write, to learn self-editing, to hone a quick take on others' work. To develop friendships and professional attitudes to the craft. . . . In a word, to learn self-respect and respect for others who deserve it. In fact, to serve those with talent, always to read their work, to offer helpful opinions, to smooth the way if I'm able, which is what I've tried to do in my 40 years of teaching experience."

Blaise taught in the workshop before becoming director of the International Writing Program in 1990. He is president of the Society for the Study of the Short Story and teaches at Southampton College of Long Island University.

Among his numerous literary works are "Lunar Attractions," winner of the Books in Canada First Novel Award; "Time-Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time," winner of Canada's Pearson Prize; "I Had a Father: A Post-Modern Autobiography," non-fiction Book of the Year from the Canadian Booksellers Association; and "Days and Nights in Calcutta" (with Mukherjee), a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. The third volume of his four-volume cycle of New and Selected Stories has just been published.

A review in the Minneapolis Tribune concluded, "Clark Blaise is one of those rare writers who, by opening himself to us, makes it possible for us to better know ourselves."

The commencement address Blaise will deliver at McGill University is related to his research and ruminations for "Time Lord": "The title of the speech I'm giving is 'Minding the Gap' and it concerns a writer's grasp of time, that is, to think of it as a cross-section embracing many seeming irrelevancies," Blaise explains.

"But when you write of 1884, say, such things as impressionism, the Orient Express, standard time, Huck Finn, 'Treasure Island,' the defeat of Gordon in Khartoum and the creation of standard time all form an interesting knot. The really hard part, the challenge to a writer and to a citizen, is to see the formation of our own 2004 knot -- what disparate elements are contributing their separate strands?"

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu.