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Pulitzer Prize Winner Marilynne Robinson praises “great hearted” Liverpool

Marilynne Robinson Wednesday 22 July 2015

Pulitzer Prize winner and one of President Obama’s favourite authors Dr Marilynne Robinson praised Liverpool as a “great hearted”, “generous” and “fascinating” city when she picked up an honorary degree from Liverpool Hope University this week.  

 Dr Robinson told graduating students and their families at the ceremony at the Metropolitan Cathedral that she wanted to return to Liverpool after first visiting five years ago, so that she could see more of the city’s character, liveliness and generosity.

She advised the new graduates to be conscious of their gifts and told them “do not be afraid to fail – just fail better next time.” She told them to always remember that “you have a mind capable of more than you know” and that “people are so much smarter than they think they are…so much deeper.”  She also advised them to continue to give their mind the respect and attention it deserves “and it will become a companion for life”.

At a free public lecture during her visit, Dr Robinson also argued the case for the liberal-arts-based education model followed by universities in the US. In response to a question from the audience, she cited President Barack Obama – who has publicly said that Dr Robinson’s books had changed him for the better - as “an argument for the liberal arts in the sense that he understands a great many things but he is not frozen in one way of thinking.” She also stated that “the idea of undervaluing human beings in any degree, approaching them with less than awe… is dangerous.” 

Dr Robinson, who is also a winner of the National Humanities Medal and the Orange Prize, was recognised by Liverpool Hope for both her fiction and non-fiction work, which explores issues of human thought-science, consciousness and religion. Gilead won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Set in 1956 in the small town of Gilead, Iowa, Gilead takes the form of a letter written by the minister John Ames to his young son.

Also receiving honorary doctorates from Liverpool Hope University this week are Lawyer and Contact the Elderly founder Trevor Lyttleton, and Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Policy Professor Roger Brown.


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