April 11, 2014
Born in Sandpoint, Idaho in 1943, Robinson’s childhood environment serve as an influence for her debut novel Housekeeping (1980), which she wrote while pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Washington. It was another 25 years before Robinson would write another novel, as she pursued her interests in political and theological subjects in her nonfiction works, Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution (1989) and The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998). She also began teaching creative writing at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she has served on the faculty since 1991. Her return to fiction in 2004 with her novel Gilead, earned her both commercial and critical success, as well as the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. She revisited the novel’s cast of characters in her 2008 novel, Home, which would win the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction). Robinson’s other topic of interest has been Protestant history and doctrine, which has resulted in her recent essay collection When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012). More broadly and more ambitiously, she has addressed the complications of religious and scientific knowledge in a series of 2009 lectures at Yale University, collected in Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self (2010).