Kiese Laymon Named Fellow at Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies

Acclaimed author, UM English professor joins history of influential thinkers in prestigious fellowship

Kiese Laymon, the inaugural holder of the Hubert H. McAlexander Chair of English at UM, has been selected as a 2020-21 fellow at the Radcliff Institute for Advanced Study. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Kiese Laymon, a celebrated author and the Hubert H. McAlexander Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, has been selected as a 2020-21 fellow at the Radcliff Institute for Advanced Study, part of Harvard University.

Established in 1960, the fellowship is granted to scholars at the forefront of the arts, journalism, humanities, sciences and social studies. Fifty men and women are selected each year to focus on an individual project, while also benefiting from a dynamic, multidisciplinary community at Harvard University.

Past fellows have included four Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, a Tony Award winner, a U.S. poet laureate and a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

Laymon will use his fellowship to work on a new novel, his first foray into the horror genre, “And So On: An Academic Horror.” The novel is set on a college campus.

“Campuses have a lot of archetypal horror elements like old buildings and wooded areas,” Laymon said. “I wanted to try to write in the horror genre.”

Traditionally, Laymon would spend the next year working on his project at Harvard with other individuals selected from around the world, but due to COVID-19, Laymon will be working remotely from Oxford and his hometown of Jackson.

“I was hoping I would be in Cambridge for the year, meeting with other fellows and learning from them,” Laymon said. “But I am grateful that the fellowship came through, even though the events will be virtual. I’ll get a break from teaching and be able to create all year.”

Laymon is the author of the acclaimed book, “Heavy: An American Memoir” and is a contributor to leading publications, including The New York Times, for which he wrote the text for a photo essay last summer, “City Summer, Country Summer.”

Laymon joined the UM faculty in 2015 after serving as the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writer in Residence. Since arriving at Ole Miss, Laymon has created the Catherine Coleman Initiative for the Arts and Social Justice in the Department of English to expose high school students to fine arts and creative writing.

Last spring, he was named the inaugural holder of the Hubert H. McAlexander Chair of English.

“Kiese is a superb writer, an outstanding teacher and a great colleague,” said Ivo Kamps, chair of the English department.

“M.F.A. students come from all over the world to work with him. He has taught for many years without interruption, and he deserves a chunk of time to think and write, so we are very pleased that the Radcliffe Institute fellowship will allow him to do that.”