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Mary McCarthy centenary to be marked by library exhibit (3/16-6/4) and special lecture by LA Times columnist Meghan Daum, March 29, 2012.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- The Vassar College Libraries will mark the centenary of famed writer and Vassar alumna Mary McCarthy with an exhibit of archival materials from the college’s Mary McCarthy Papers, as well as with a special accompanying lecture by Los Angeles Times columnist and Vassar graduate Meghan Daum. The exhibit “Mary McCarthy and Vassar” can be seen March 16 - June 4, Mondays-Fridays from 9:00am-5:00pm in the Thompson Memorial Library. Meghan Daum’s exhibition lecture “You Never Liked Me at College: Mary McCarthy’s Past Perfect Vassar" will be held on Thursday, March 29, at 5:30pm in Taylor Hall, room 203, and is co-sponsored by the Department of English. Both events are free and open to the public.

About the exhibit

Mary McCarthy was a prolific novelist, memoirist, journalist, and critic who drew extensively on her experiences at Vassar in her writings. Prominent examples include her article “The Vassar Girl” published by Holiday magazine in 1951, her 1963 breakout novel The Group (also made into a movie in 1966), and her 1987 memoir How I Grew. The exhibit “Mary McCarthy and Vassar” will feature writings, photos, and other materials from the collected Mary McCarthy Papers, one of the key holdings in the college’s Virginia B. Smith Memorial Manuscript Collection.

Curator Ronald Patkus, the Head of Special Collections at the Vassar College Libraries, writes that this exhibit “provides an opportunity to explore how Vassar influenced McCarthy, especially when she was a student, and also how the college was influenced by her, particularly in later years.” Of the Mary McCarthy Papers housed at the Vassar College Libraries, he explains that “the first group of papers came to the college in 1985, and since then it has been followed by several large and significant additions. Vassar remains committed to building this collection and providing access to its contents. Today the collection serves as a window not only on the life and work of McCarthy, but also on 20th century intellectual and political circles in general.”

About the lecture

Meghan Daum drew part of her lecture title from a line in Mary McCarthy's bestselling novel, The Group, in which Norine says to Helena a few years after their graduation from Vassar, "You never liked me at college.” Daum believes the comment reflects a social anxiety at Vassar, ”that  everyone else is having more fun than we are, that others actually deserve to be there whereas we do not, and that we are mere impostors amid a sea of genuine articles.”  Daum added "past perfect" to her lecture title to refer to “the way the Vassar experience can easily be eclipsed by nostalgia, and how this nostalgia -- the love of having been there -- is an integral and even priceless part of what it means to be a Vassar alum. My lecture will use Mary McCarthy's relationship to Vassar as a framework for a discussion of the ups and downs of the Vassar experience.” 

Calendar of Events:

Exhibit, “Mary McCarthy and Vassar”
March 16 – June 4
Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Thompson Memorial Library

Lecture, “You Never Liked Me at College: Mary McCarthy’s Past Perfect Vassar”
Meghan Daum
March 29, 5:30pm
Taylor Hall, Room 203

About Mary McCarthy

Mary McCarthy was born in Seattle, WA and orphaned at the age of six, when both of her parents died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. McCarthy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College in 1933, and then moved to New York to begin her career as a writer and critic. She served on the editorial staff of the Partisan Review from 1937 to 1948, and published her first novel, The Company She Keeps, in 1942. In addition to numerous reviews and articles on topics spanning art and architecture, cultural criticism, political analysis, and travel observations, McCarthy published 28 books during her lifetime, including Birds of America (1971), Cannibals and Missionaries (1979), and Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957), before her death from cancer in 1989.

McCarthy won a number of literary awards, among them the Horizon Prize (1949) and two Guggenheim fellowships (1949-50 and 1959-60). Both the MacDowell Medal for Literature and the National Medal for Literature were bestowed upon her in 1984. She was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy in Rome. She received honorary degrees from Bard, Bowdoin, Colby, and Smith Colleges, Syracuse University, and from the Universities of Aberdeen, Hull, and Maine at Orono.

About Meghan Daum

Meghan Daum is the author of Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, a personal chronicle, as well as the novel The Quality of Life Report and the essay collection My Misspent Youth. Since 2005 she has written a weekly column for The Los Angeles Times, which appears on the op-ed page every Thursday. She has contributed to the public radio programs Morning Edition,Marketplace and This American Life and has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Harper's, GQ, Vogue, Self, New York, Travel & Leisure, BlackBook, Harper's Bazaar, The Village Voice, and The New York Times Book Review. Her essays have appeared in countless anthologies and are taught in many college classrooms. Daum earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from Vassar College, and graduated from the MFA writing program at Columbia University's School of the Arts. She has taught at various institutions, including the California Institute for the Arts, where she was a visiting artist in 2004 and taught graduate nonfiction writing (www.meghandaum.com).

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all.  Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370.  Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (www.vassar.edu).

Vassar College is located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY. Directions to the campus can be found at http://www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, February 28, 2012