Named one of the UK’s top public intellectuals by The Observer in 2011, the Chicago-born writer is being honoured for her significant contribution to literature and promotion of debate. A former deputy chair of trustees of the British Museum, former chancellor of Kingston University, and a patron of the School’s Being Human festival of the humanities, she will collect her Doctor of Literature honoris causa in a 9 December ceremony when the School will also graduate two cohorts of students.
Bonnie Greer is an advocate of free speech and truly inclusive higher education, regardless of individual gender and cultural background. Her podcast ‘In search of Black history’ for Audible UK is a success on both sides of the Atlantic.
‘Bonnie is an exceptional advocate for the power of inclusive education and the importance of humanities and the arts in society,’ says SAS dean Professor Jo Fox. ‘We have been truly honoured to work with her in the School of Advanced Study on Being Human, the UK’s national festival of the humanities. The award of the Doctor of Literature honoris causa is richly deserved for a life dedicated to the advancement of others and to open, intelligent and informed debate.’
She has lived in the UK since 1986 and has been a citizen since the mid-90s. In 2010 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for her contribution to the arts and has served on the boards of leading arts organisations including RADA, Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She is a past president of the Bronte Society.
Ms Greer has penned numerous books and novels including a biography of writer and social activist Langston Hughes, and explorations of the lives of influential people in the arts, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald. She is a columnist for The New European newspaper. Her latest piece on how the writings of Giovanni Boccaccio can help us survive this pandemic is published in The Independent.
She has also written for the stage, screen and radio. Her work is often inspired by current affairs: a 2009 appearance on BBC Question Time at the same time as the British National Party’s Nick Griffin compelled her to write the libretto for Errollyn Wallen’s Yes, which was first performed at the Royal Opera House in 2011 and prompted debate on a national level.
Ms Greer has been a panellist and guest on a number of television and radio shows, including the BBCs Newsnight Review and Radio 4's Any Questions. And she was a part of the panel programme: CNN Talk.
Commenting on her honorary doctorate, Bonnie Greer, whose memoir, A Parallel Life, was published in 2014, says, ‘My late father came of age in rural Mississippi, during segregation. His education, therefore, was severely limited. For him, lifelong learning was both a goal and a passion. And literature was everything. I am so grateful to be awarded this honour.‘
Notes to Editors
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