FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (3/97)
Contact: Lynn Stewart, Centenary News Service
318-869-5120 or 869-5709
SHREVEPORT, LA -- The novelist and short story writer Elizabeth Spencer will receive the seventh annual John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence and read from her work at Centenary College on Tuesday, April 8.
The presentation will be at 7 p.m. in the South Dining Hall, Bynum Commons, on the Centenary Campus. Sponsored by the Student Government Association's Forums Committee and the Department of English, the event is free and open to the public.
The author of nine novels, three collections of short stories, and a forthcoming memoir, Spencer is best known for her 1960 novella The Light in the Piazza. Set in Florence, Italy, this short novel tells of a wealthy American tourist's connivance at the courtship of her 26-year-old daughter by a local boy.
Spencer explores the mother's decision not to reveal that her beautiful daughter, injured in childhood, is mentally retarded. The work was made into a film in 1962 starring Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton.
Born in 1921 in Carrollton, Miss., Spencer was educated at Belhaven College in Jackson, Miss., and at Vanderbilt, where she earned an M.A. degree in 1942. The Deep South provides the setting for Spencer's early novels, such as The Voice at the Back Door (1956), which explores race relations in a small Mississippi town after World War II.
In 1953, a Guggenheim grant took Spencer to Italy, where she married an Englishman and lived for five years. Much of her best fiction is set in Italy. Seven such works, including the short novel Knights and Dragons (1965), were collected last year by the University of Mississippi Press in The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales.
More recent novels The Snare (1972) and The Salt Line (1985) are set in new Orleans and on the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.
The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer appeared with a foreward by Eudora Welty in 1981. About this major retrospective collection, the poet and novelist James Dickey wrote: "One remembers not only the events and how they come before the reader, but the exact words. One has only to read these stories to understand Elizabeth Spencer as a master of the short story. She is a writer one puts on the permanent' shelf."
Having lived for many years in Montreal, Spencer now lives in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Previous recipients of the Corrington Award have been Eudora Welty, Ernest J. Gaines, James Dickey, Miller Williams, Lee Smith and Paul Auster.
The Corrington Award, named for the fiction writer and Centenary graduate who died in 1988, takes the form of a bronze medal designed by the sculptor Clyde Connell.
A unique feature of the award is that work by the recipient serves as a text in all first-year English classes. This semester, students at Centenary are reading The Light in the Piazza, The Voice at the Back Door, and The Salt Line.
For further information contact David Havird, Department of English, 869-5085 or 869-5254.
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