The Board of Directors of the West Virginia Humanities Council established the annual McCreight Lecture in the Humanities to honor the leadership of Betsy Keadle McCreight, who died in 1985. McCreight was a founding board member, serving the Council as treasurer, vice president, and president. She believed that the humanities were at the heart of a democratic society, a necessary source of wisdom and vision.
Presented each October, the McCreight Lecture affords West Virginians the opportunity to hear nationally respected scholars and public intellectuals on a variety of humanities topics. McCreight Lecturers have included Ken Burns, Joyce Carol Oates, Joseph Ellis, Sylvia Nasar, Henry Louis Gates, Elaine Pagels, Gordon Wood, James McPherson, Edmund Morris and Annette Gordon-Reed.
Award-winning author Azar Nafisi, known for her bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, will present “The Humanities and the Future of Democracies” as the 2017 McCreight Lecture in the Humanities on Thursday, October 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Culture Center in Charleston. The event is free and open to the public, and a book signing will follow the talk.
Born in Tehran as the daughter of the mayor, educated in Switzerland, with a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma and a fellowship at Oxford, Nafisi was teaching literature at the University of Tehran just as the Iranian revolution was clamping down. She was dismissed from the university in 1981 for refusing to wear the mandatory Islamic veil in her classroom.
That experience was the basis for Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which subsequently spent two years on the U.S. bestseller lists and was translated into 32 languages. The book gives readers a compassionate and often harrowing portrait of the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students. It also is an insightful examination of the transformative powers of fiction.
Her most recent book, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, uses the novels Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter to make a powerful case for the vital role of fiction in America today.
Nafisi was a professor of aesthetics, culture, and literature at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. While at Oxford she lectured on culture and the role of Western literature and culture in Iran after the revolution in 1979. She has lived in the United States since 1997 and became a citizen in 2008.
2016 McCreight Lecture delivered by Annette Gordon-Reed