July 28, 2016

Pultizer Prize and MacArthur Grant Winner James Alan McPherson Dies

Acclaimed writer James Alan McPherson has died at the age of 72. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1977 for his work Elbow Room. He was the first African American writer to win the prize.

Professor McPherson, who taught at the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop for many years, retiring in 2014, as well as at the University of Virginia, was also a graduate of Iowa, receiving a master's degree in fine arts, after graduating from Harvard Law School. One can find that legal training reflected in his writing. As Sam Roberts notes in the New York Times obituary for Professor McPherson, he "would invoke the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and infuse his literature with the principles of diversity propounded by Albion W. Tourgée in his brief in 1896 against segregated railroad cars in Plessy v. Ferguson."

The James D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded James Alan McPherson one of the first "genius grants" in 1981.

A selected bibliography is below:

Beavers, Herman, I Yam What You Is and You Is What I Yam: Rhetorical Invisibility in James Alan McPherson's "The Story of a Dead Man," 29 Callaloo 565-577 (Autumn 1986).

Beavers, Herman, Wrestling Angels Into Song: The Fictions of Ernest J. Gaines and James Alan McPherson (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).

McPherson, James Alan, Conversations With Ralph Ellison (1995).

Wallace, Jon, The Politics of Style in Three Stories by James Alan McPherson, 34 MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 17-26 (Spring 1988).

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