Artist in Residence John Brandon Visit

John Brandon

This March, UCA English, with the generous support of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences’ Artist in Residence Program (AiR), hosted fiction writer John Brandon on campus. Brandon is an associate professor of creative writing at Hamline University of Minnesota. He has published a short-story collection, Further Joy (2014), and four novels, the most recent of which, Ivory Shoals (2021), has earned considerable acclaim. To kick off the visit on the evening of March 1, UCA English screened the 2020 film adaptation of Brandon’s first novel, Arkansas (2008), in Reynolds Performance Hall. The Arkansan actor-director Clark Duke adapted the work into a major motion picture that stars Duke, along with Liam Hemsworth, John Malkovich, Vince Vaughn, Vivica A. Fox, and Michael Kenneth Williams. After the film, Brandon participated in a Q&A with faculty and students, during which he discussed the disorienting experience of having a film unexpectedly made of his first novel and its premiering just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold. He also hinted that while at the time Arkansas was pitched he didn’t have interest in screenwriting, he currently is at work on adapting one of his short stories into a screenplay.

On March 2, Brandon visited with students from Professor Devon Hawkins’s Honors Core IV course on philosophy and literature, as well as Professor Ty Hawkins’s English senior seminar on contemporary Southern noir fiction — both classes having engaged Arkansas in recent weeks. During X period on March 2, Brandon offered UCA’s first Keystone Conversation on the steps of the Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts. During that event, Brandon picked up the discussion about adaptation that he began the previous evening after the film screening.

Professor Brandon fields questions during UCA’s first Keystone Conversation at the new Windgate center

Brandon’s AiR concluded during the afternoon of March 2, when he offered a public reading of his new fiction in the McCastlain Fireplace Room. The reading showcased some of Brandon’s most experimental prose to date — work that sees him pushing new boundaries, in terms of incorporating metafictional techniques that challenge readers’ assumptions about identity and temporality. These fictions also display what has been a hallmark of all of Brandon’s fiction: a unique capacity to invite readers into the interior lives of a diverse array of contemporary American men, allowing us to understand what motivates them, what they desire, what they fear, and so forth. After the reading, Brandon fielded audience members’ questions and signed copies of his books.

UCA English is truly grateful to Professor Brandon, as well as our colleagues and friends across CAHSS, for making this AiR such a success. This is the first English-hosted AiR, and we hope there will be many more in the future!   

John Brandon at the public reading in the Fireplace Room