Kurt Vonnegut to visit campus as Kovler Fellow
Kurt Vonnegut (A.M.'71), best-selling author of "Slaughterhouse-Five" and numerous other works, will visit the University on Wednesday, Feb. 16, and Thursday, Feb. 17, as a Marjorie Kovler Fellow.
While at the University, Vonnegut will attend classes and meet informally with students and faculty. He will also present a lecture titled "Chicago" at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, in Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. Admission is free.
Vonnegut is the author of more than 20 novels, plays and collections of short stories and essays, including the novels "Cat's Cradle" (1963), "Breakfast of Champions" (1973), "Deadeye Dick" (1982) and "Hocus Pocus" (1992). "Fates Worse Than Death," his most recent collection of speeches and essays, was published in 1991.
Vonnegut attended Cornell from 1940 to 1942, dropping out after a bout with pneumonia. He then joined the U.S. Army, was sent to Europe during World War II and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. Sent as a prisoner of war to the city of Dresden, Vonnegut was present during the firebombing of that city. The events of the firebombing are the basis for his novel "Slaughterhouse-Five."
After the war, Vonnegut attended Chicago from 1945 to 1947, and in 1971 he was awarded his A.M. in anthropology. As Vonnegut himself explained in a letter to Playboy magazine in 1973, "This was not an honorary degree but an earned one, given on the basis of what the faculty committee called the anthropological basis of my novels. I snapped it up most cheerfully, and I continue to have nothing but friendly feelings for the University, which gave me the most stimulating years of my life."
His 1981 collection of speeches and essays, "Palm Sunday," features a chapter taken from the master's thesis in anthropology that he wrote during his years at Chicago.
During his time at the University, Vonnegut worked as a police reporter for Chicago's City News Bureau. In 1947, he took a job in public relations for General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., and began to write short stories in his spare time. In 1951, with the publication of his first novel, "Player Piano," he began writing full time.
Although his early novels were dismissed by literary critics and relegated to the science-fiction genre, "Cat's Cradle" became a 1960s-era cult favorite (the rock band the Grateful Dead named its music publishing company "Ice-Nine" after a fictitious chemical substance in the novel), and "Slaughterhouse-Five" became a best seller and eventually was made into a film.
Vonnegut was a Guggenheim fellow from 1967 to 1968 and received the literary award of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1970. He served as a distinguished professor at the City College of New York from 1973 to 1974. He currently lives and writes in New York City.
The Marjorie Kovler Visiting Fellows program is designed to encourage interaction between students at the University and prominent individuals in the arts and public affairs. Marjorie Kovler was founder and president of Kovler Galleries and a prominent figure in the Chicago art world.