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Skidmore College

President Conner’s latest book a New York Times pick for 2020

November 21, 2020
by Julia Marco

The editors of The New York Times Book Review have included Skidmore College President and literary scholar Marc C. Conner’s latest book, “The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison,” in their list of “100 Notable Books of 2020."

The book is an extensive collection of letters from Ralph Ellison, a 20th-century African American writer and scholar best known for his novel “Invisible Man.”

The Times Book Review editors described the book as “a magnificent collection” that captures Ellison’s “wit, style, ambition and personal travails, as well as his powerful insights into Black artistic expression.”

The product of a decade’s worth of work and collaboration with John F. Callahan, literary executor for Ellison’s estate, the volume was published by Random House in 2019.

Conner recently shared the book, and the lessons and reflections one can draw from Ellison’s letters, with the Skidmore community during the English Department’s annual “Critical Futures” event.

“I think Ellison is speaking to our present moment with such prescience and such foresight,” Conner said. “You can go back to (Ellison’s) ‘Second Novel’ or even ‘Invisible Man’ and you think, ‘My God. That must be 2018.’ It’s the same paradoxes of America that he is writing about.”

Conner has published extensively on modern American, African  American and Irish literature. He formerly served as provost at Washington and Lee University and taught English literature for more than two decades before joining Skidmore as its eighth president in July. He holds a doctorate in English literature from Princeton University. 

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