English Chair to Lead International Updike Society
English Department Chair James Plath
May 27, 2009
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – A newly formed organization devoted to the works of Pulitzer Prize-winning
novelist John Updike will be headed by Illinois Wesleyan University English Department
Chair James Plath.
At the American Literature Association’s annual conference in Boston May 24, Updike
scholars formed The John Updike Society. The group, which includes 40 scholars from
five countries, plans to publish a journal of Updike studies and to host conferences
in places where the author worked and lived, like Pennsylvania and Boston. Illinois
Wesleyan will host the society’s Web site.
“What John Updike has done for American literature is astounding,” Plath said. “His
work connects us with our American literary past, and he is forever a part of that
now.” Plath has studied Updike for more than 20 years. His interest in the novelist
was first piqued during an English class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Plath began a correspondence with the author, and eventually wrote his dissertation
on “The Painterly Aspects of John Updike’s Fiction.” He also worked closely with the
novelist while editing the book Conversations with John Updike in 1994.
Updike was the featured speaker at a Founder’s Day Convocation celebrating the opening
of The Ames Library in February 2002. At that Convocation, he was awarded an honorary
Illinois Wesleyan degree.
“Education is not an entirely pleasant experience,” Updike said during his Convocation
speech at IWU. “It can be painful as we go from caterpillars to butterflies.”
The novelist, who had written more than 50 books, numerous short stories, poems and
critical essays, died in January at age 76.
Contact: Sarah Julian ’07, (309) 556-3181