The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

Column: Get lit with UNC's literary arts

Literature is everywhere at UNC. The libraries, while formidable storehouses of knowledge and words, only scratch the surface of our university’s rich literary history. As an English and creative writing student, I am lucky to have many encounters with literature beyond the stacks of Davis.  

A few weeks ago, while sitting in the Dialectic Chamber in New West at poet Gabriel Fried’s reading, I felt like someone’s eyes were boring a hole into me. I turned to my left; lo and behold, Thomas Wolfe stared back at me. 

Wolfe represents the height of literary UNC. Famous for Look Homeward, Angel, an experimental novel for its time, the North Carolina native and UNC grad has a myriad of prizes and honors in his name at the University. Of course, he deserves all the accolades, attention and name-dropping he gets, but I sometimes do think he serves as some students’ sole figurehead of the literary world at Carolina. 

Apart from Wolfe, we have a strong tradition of literary excellence at our University that I believe deserves more attention. UNC has been home to lovers of the written word who are dedicated to preserving this tradition. 

Luckily, their legacies live on through events and prizes. Take Blanche Armfield, for example, who graduated with a masters in poetry in 1928 from UNC. A poetry series and prize are in her name thanks to her dedication to the craft.  

Every year, the English and comparative literature department brings renowned writers and editors to the University to speak with the student body and interact with selected classes. Just in my time at Carolina, notable writers such as Junot Diaz, Natasha Trethewey and The New Yorker’s poetry editor Kevin Young have visited. 

This academic year, I was lucky enough to have individual experiences with visiting writers because I am writing a senior thesis in poetry. Meeting these writers, editors and creatives will be something I will never experience again. 

Writing and reading has been such an integral part of my undergraduate experience, so I feel fortunate to have had the enriched immersion into the literary world at large. 

On Tuesday, novelist and poet Julia Alvarez will give a reading at Genome Sciences as the Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence. This event is one even those who do not take literature and creative writing classes should not miss. 

There are few things as magical as watching (and listening to) a writer read her work aloud. At Gabriel Fried’s reading in late January, the Dialectic Chamber was packed full. This was so encouraging to see as an aspiring writer. 

In whatever way you can, try to experience the literary arts during your time at UNC. Come to Julia Alvarez’s reading on Tuesday. Submit to Cellar Door Literary Magazine. Attend a local author’s reading at Flyleaf Books (and don’t forget to buy a few books while you’re there). Take a creative writing class with one of our all-star faculty members. 

I hope it changes your life – it changed mine.  

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