Freier Lecture


15 Years of the Freier Lecture in Literature

Image of Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine

Join us in celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Esther Freier Endowed Lectures in Literature, which began February 5, 2001, with Jamaica Kincaid as our guest. After Dr. Abraham Verghese delighted a full house at Northrop this past spring, we are looking forward to further celebration with Marilynne Robinson and Claudia Rankine October 19, 2016, at Ted Mann Concert Hall. Freier talks are always free and open to the public.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Claudia Rankine and Marilynne Robinson: In Conversation
7:30 pm, Ted Mann Concert Hall, 2128 Fourth Street South, Minneapolis


The Department of English presents an evening with Claudia Rankine and Marilynne Robinson, two of America's most cogent and inspiring thinkers about our shared culture and history. Rankine is the author of five volumes of poetry, including the bestselling Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf) which won the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and both the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, among many other honors. She has also co-edited four books, most recently The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind (Fence, 2015), and collaborated on numerous videos. Currently a MacArthur Fellow and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Rankine joins the faculty at Yale University this fall.

Image of Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson

Robinson has published four novels—Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, and Lila—which together have won a Pulitzer Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and two National Book Critics Circle Awards, among other honors. Her five books of nonfiction include 2015's The Givenness of Things: Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, which won the 1999 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Robinson has received both the National Humanities Medal (2012) and the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction (2016); she retired this spring as the F. Wendell Miller Professor of English and Creative Writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Rankine and Robinson will also answer audience questions and sign books.

Free and open to the public! No tickets or reservations necessary.

More author readings are offered through our creative writing program's Edelstein-Keller Visiting Writer Series.



About Esther Freier

The Esther Freier literature series hosts two free lectures each year featuring various prize-winning authors, from Zadie Smith to David Mitchell, Louise Glück to Natasha Trethewey.

The literary legacy that Esther Freier envisioned began in 2001, when celebrated novelist and essayist Jamaica Kincaid inaugurated the Esther Freier Endowed Lecture in Literature series. A clinical laboratory chemist and professor, Freier had a deep and profound love for literature and the humanities. She wanted to leave a legacy that would benefit the public and inspire emerging authors. In her will, Freier created an endowment that would bring prize-winning national and international authors to campus for free, public lectures and informal visits with students.

Esther Freier was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, in 1925. She moved to Minneapolis while still a child and spent her entire academic (BS ‘46, MS ‘56) and professional career of 45 years at the University of Minnesota. She co-authored the first paper dealing with quality control in clinical chemistry, winning several awards. When she retired in 1991, she held the only endowed professorship in medical technology in the nation. That year, Freier served as the first woman president of the Academy of Clinical and Laboratory Physicians and Scientists and was re-elected the following year.

Esther Freier was a teacher, friend, and mentor to many. The Department of English is deeply grateful for her generosity to us, the University, and the community.

Previous Freier Lecturers

  • April, 2016: Abraham Verghese
  • October, 2015: Jeanette Winterson
  • February, 2015: Lynn Nottage
  • October, 2014: James McBride
  • April, 2014: David Mitchell
  • October, 2013: Katherine Boo
  • April, 2013: Colum McCann
  • October, 2012: Zadie Smith
  • April, 2012: Denis Johnson
  • October, 2011: Philip Gourevitch
  • April, 2011: Natasha Trethewey
  • October, 2010: James Salter
  • April, 2010: Richard Powers
  • September, 2009: Maxine Hong Kingston
  • March, 2009: Louise Glück
  • October, 2008: Junot Díaz
  • March, 2006: Suzan-Lori Parks
  • November, 2007: Paul Muldoon
  • April, 2007: E. L. Doctorow
  • November, 2006: Bharati Mukherjee
  • April, 2006: T. C. Boyle
  • October, 2005: Philip Levine
  • April, 2005: Anna Deavere Smith
  • November, 2004: Rita Dove
  • April, 2004: A. S. Byatt
  • October, 2003: Arnold Rampersad
  • February, 2003: Michael Chabon
  • November, 2002: Edmund White
  • March, 2002: Barry Lopez
  • March, 2001: W. S. Merwin
  • February, 2001: Jamaica Kincaid