Imagining and Writing a Pandemic
Geraldine Brooks (Harvard University)

March 11, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm

This event is online


Brown University
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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We invite you to join us for a live panel discussion with Pulitzer-prize winning author, Geraldine Brooks, on the topic of “imagining and writing a pandemic.” Geraldine Brooks is a journalist and novelist. During her career as a journalist, Brooks reported on environmental issues and international conflicts for the Wall Street Journal and Sydney Morning Herald.  She won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her second novel, March. In this conversation, we will focus on her first novel, Year of Wonders – a work of historical fiction, in which Brooks recounts fourteen months in the life of a town stricken by the Bubonic plague. Her account is inspired by the true story of the English town of Eyam, a small village in the peak district. When the plague came to Eyam in 1665, village leaders decided to isolate from the world, to protect neighboring communities from contagion. Merchants would leave supplies for the village on its outskirts, and villagers would pay by leaving money in holes filled with vinegar (for the purposes of disinfection). Many of the ethical dilemmas faced by the villagers, and the ways in which commerce and social life were transformed, have parallels in our present experience. However, other features of the plague experience in Eyam are thankfully remote. There were no effective therapeutics or vaccines. Eyam’s altruistic decision to “lock-down” meant a decision to be locked in with an extremely deadly virus; and many healthy people who might have lived had they fled the town, died.

In a conversation moderated by Simone Gubler (University of Nevada, Reno), Geraldine Brooks will discuss Year of Wonders, what it is like to research and write a plague novel, and how her experience of doing so bears on her thinking about the present pandemic.

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