September 4, 2019

Jhumpa Lahiri Is Named New Director Of Princeton’s Creative Writing Program

Jhumpa Lahiri

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts has named Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri the new director of the University’s Program in Creative Writing. Lahiri, a professor of Creative Writing on the Princeton faculty since 2015, succeeds 2017-19 U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, who has led the program since 2015 and on July 1 became chair of the Lewis Center.

“Jhumpa Lahiri, one of the great writers of our time, is a truly galvanizing and empowering presence in the classroom,” said Smith. “Our community is enriched by her commitments to the development of student writers, the practice of translation, and the wealth of literature being written in languages other than English. Jhumpa has also engaged in conversations around the intersection of literature and other art forms and disciplines. Under her directorship, the Creative Writing Program will enter an urgent and meaningful new phase.”

Lahiri received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Interpreter of Maladies, her debut story collection. She is also the author of The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland, a finalist for both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award in fiction. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the PEN/Hemingway Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Lahiri was awarded a 2014 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

Born in London and raised in Rhode Island, Lahiri received her B.A. in English literature from Barnard College and multiple degrees from Boston University including an M.A. in English, M.F.A. in Creative Writing, M.A. in Comparative Literature, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She has taught creative writing at Boston University, Baruch College, Barnard College, The New School, and the Rhode Island School of Design.

“At a time when words are used to falsify and divide,” said Lahiri, “I am proud and inspired to direct a diverse and inclusive creative writing program that unites Princeton students with some of the world’s finest writers. Never before has our faculty represented such a multitude of cultures, languages, and perspectives. This year not only marks the 80th anniversary of the program, but our continued determination to redefine the literary landscape.”

Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing traces its origins to 1939, when Dean Christian Gauss approached the Carnegie Foundation to help the University focus on the cultivation of writers and other artists. He appointed poet and critic Allen Tate as the first Resident Fellow in Creative Writing. Since then world-renowned writers have served as faculty and visiting guest writers including Simon Armitage, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bowen, Jeffrey Eugenides, Robert Fitzgerald, Thomas Gunn, Edmund Keeley, David E. Kelley, Chang-rae Lee, John McPhee, Lorrie Moore, Neel Mukherjee, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Claudia Rankine, Erika Sanchez, Delmore Schwartz, Edmund White, Kevin Young, and Nobel laureates Toni Morrison and Mario Vargas Llosa.

The Program will celebrate this milestone anniversary with appearances by 80 writers over the course of the coming academic year.