Former IAS Residential Fellow Michael Lackey Named Obama Institute Fellow

portrait of a bald man in black shirt looking directly into camera with kind but serious gaze

Former IAS Residential Fellow (Spring 2009) and University of Minnesota Morris Professor of English Michael Lackey is one of five scholars from across the United States to be invited to lecture and work at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz as part of the Obama Fellowship program.  

Lackey will present a lecture for graduate students: “Moses Biofictions as Critiques of Nazism: Zora Neale Hurston and Thomas Mann,” at the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies on May 13, 2024.

Lackey will also spend a month at the Institute to continue his research on anti-Nazi biofictions from the 1930s and 1940s.

Biofiction is literature that names its protagonist after a real person, and since the 1990s, it has become a dominant literary form across the globe. But it was in the 1930s and the 1940s that the genre first surged, with notable publications from luminaries as varied as Irving Stone, Klaus and Heinrich Mann, Robert Graves, Arna Bontemps, and Bertolt Brecht, to mention only a few. That it had its first major surge in the 1930s makes sense, since biofiction is an ideal literary form for exposing sociopolitical sicknesses and offering healthier and more socially just ways of thinking and doing. Given the rise of tyrannical polities in the thirties and forties, creative writers used the literary form to counter death-bringing polities.

Michael Lackey is a scholar of 20th and 21st century intellectual, political, and literary history. He has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, Northwestern University's Holocaust Education Foundation, the University of Minnesota's Institute for Advanced Study, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and recently has been selected for the Fulbright Laszlo Orszagh Distinguished Award in American Studies. Lackey has received the Horace T. Morse award, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education, and is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor of English. He has authored and edited ten books.

The Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz offers a dynamic and wide-ranging program in both research and teaching for all students interested in topics related to the Americas in a global context.


Original reporting by Sue Dieter, University of Minnesota Morris

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