UT to Hold Month-long Celebration of James Agee Beginning Oct. 23

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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of James Agee, the Knoxville native and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, screenwriter, journalist, author and poet, with four weekends of events, including a film festival, lectures, exhibitions and a concert and picnic.

The James Agee Centennial Celebration begins Friday, Oct. 23, and wraps up on Sunday, Nov. 22.

Born on Nov. 27, 1909, in a home on Highland Avenue near James Agee Street, Agee spent the first seven years of his life in Knoxville before leaving town to attend boarding school. He returned to Knoxville for a year of high school and then left again, eventually graduating from Harvard University.

Agee went on to write for magazines such as Time, Life, Fortune and The Nation. He wrote the screenplays for the films “The African Queen” and “Night of the Hunter,” and won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his book “A Death in the Family.”

Michael Lofaro, a UT Knoxville English professor and international authority on Agee, organized the events with the Knox County Public Library and the Tennessee Archive of Moving Images and Sound (TAMIS) to highlight the growing body of academic scholarship on Agee’s career and to celebrate the writer’s 100th birthday.

“Agee’s multifaceted career makes celebrating his achievements a true cultural event for East Tennessee that includes something of interest for everyone,” Lofaro said.

“This gathering is both a celebration and a revelation. It focuses upon the remarkable variety of his work – he was a poet, novelist, journalist, essayist, film reviewer, screenplay writer and cultural critic — and brings forward both his best-known and often unknown works in a new light for all to appreciate,” Lofaro said.

Charles Maland, head of the UT Knoxville Department of English, said this is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the scholarship and research taking place in Knoxville.

“In his involvement in this celebration of Agee’s work, as well as in his scholarly work over the last decade, including his recent edition of ‘A Death in the Family,’ Mike Lofaro has become a leading name in Agee scholarship,” Maland said. “In addition, as the general editor of ‘The Complete Works of James Agee,’ he is playing a key role in keeping alive the literary achievements of one of Knoxville’s most accomplished men of letters.”

Lofaro is the author of “A Death in the Family: A Restoration of the Author’s Text,” which is Volume 1 of the new 10-volume series “The Works of James Agee,” published by the University of Tennessee Press. Lofaro, general editor of the series, is the Lindsay Young Professor of American Literature and American and Cultural Studies at UT.

Lofaro is the author and editor of several other books, including “Agee Agonistes: Critical Essays and Celebrations of the Life and Work of James Agee” (2007), “James Agee Rediscovered: The Journals of ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ and Other New Manuscripts” (2005) with co-author Hugh Davis of “Daniel Boone: An American Life” (2003).

The first weekend of events features a three-day film festival, with screenings of movies that inspired Agee, movies that he was involved in making, and documentaries about his life and art. Films will be shown at various locations around Knoxville, including the East Tennessee History Center and the Bijou Theatre on Gay Street, and the Square Room on Market Square.

Following weekends will feature an outdoor reading of selected Agee works in James Agee Park, lectures, a music performance at Laurel Theater, and exhibits at the UT Libraries’ Special Collections, the Knoxville Museum of Art and the East Tennessee History Center.

For the full schedule of Agee Centennial events, visit http://web.utk.edu/~english/news/agee100.html.

C O N T A C T :

Michael Lofaro (865-974-4928, mlofaro@utk.edu)

Charles Maland (865-974-6927, cmaland@utk.edu)

Charles Primm (865-974-5180, primmc@utk.edu)

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