The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Pulitzer Prize winning writer visits campus

Robert Butler
University Relations | Courtesy Photo
Robert Butler

This week, Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler visits Mississippi State University as the Institute for Humanities’ first writer-in-residence.
Shalyn Claggett, program coordinator for the Institute for the Humanities, said the institute brings Butler on campus to give students the opportunity to interact with him both formally and informally. 
During the week-long residency, Butler will participate in a reading tonight beginning at 7 p.m. in McCool Hall’s Taylor Auditorium as well as hold office hours.
Claggett said Butler’s writing discusses topics that are relatable to the people of the Starkville and MSU community.
“His fiction and nonfiction writing addresses themes that I think are important to members of this community,” she said.
In his Pulitzer Prize winning short story collection,“A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain,” Butler uses several different Vietnamese narrators who live in Louisiana. 
Claggett said the collection views the South through perspectives outside of the American South and becomes part of the global South. 
“It contextualizes living in a rural setting within a larger world conversation,” she said.
Claggett said Butler’s experience in the Vietnam War helped him create this work from the point of view of its Vietnamese narrators. 
Claggett said she hopes students will take advantage of Butler’s presence because the writer-in-residence program intends to serve students, first and foremost.
“As the inaugural event we’re hoping for a really large turnout because that will determine if we will be able to sustain this,” she said.
Claggett said she hopes to repeat this program every year and bring in a range of creative writers. If the program does well, students will potentially have the ability to interact with four different writers throughout their time at MSU.

“It’s a very wonderful op- portunity,” Claggett said.

Becky Hagenston, asso- ciate professor of creative writing, said Butler’s “Tab- loid Dreams” is her favorite book. In this collection of short stories, Butler used headlines from newspapers as titles and built stories around the headlines. One of the short stories is called “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot” and tells the story of a man trapped in a parrot’s body.

Hagenston said Butler’s work mixes comedy with re-

ality to pleasing results.
“All I can say is I think he’s fantastic,” she said. “His sto- ries are hilarious and inspir-

Butler has authored six

short story collections and 14 novels. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and he was a finalist for the PEN/Faulk- ner Award. He is a Francis Eppes Distinguished profes- sor at Florida State Univer- sity. He also has a personal connection to MSU through his wife, Kelly, who graduated with an M.A. in English from MSU.

The College of Arts and Sciences, the Institute for the Humanities, the Judy and Bobby Shackouls Hon- ors College, the Mississippi Humanities Council and the Office of the Provost sponsor the Writer-in-Residence Pro- gram, which has also been partially funded by the Na- tional Endowment for the Humanitities.

For more information visit or call the In- stitute for the Humanitites at 662-325-7095. 


Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Pulitzer Prize winning writer visits campus