In her long and varied writing career, novelist Francine du Plessix Gray
has been a fascinating cultural figure. She was born in Warsaw, spent
her childhood in Paris, and grew up in New York. Regarded as a writer's
writer notable for her distinguished personal history and freewheeling
candor, she is a longtime contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and the author of more than a dozen volumes of fiction and nonfiction, including her latest historical novel, The Queen's Lover; biographies of the Marquis de Sade and Simone Weil; and the memoir Them,
about her mother (Tatiana Yakoleva, onetime lover and muse of the
Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky) and her step-father (Alexander
Liberman, legendary editorial director of Conde Nast).
Extraordinary Lives explores great minds that have shaped our cultural
landscape. In this series, Graduate Center President Bill Kelly has
one-on-one conversations with a diverse group of vital contemporary
thinkers, artists, and visionaries who have indelibly impacted the
fields in which they work. Previous participants have included Patti
Smith, Ira Glass, Chuck Close, and Danny Meyer.
Francine du Plessix Gray
Francine du Plessix Gray is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and literary critic.
William P. Kelly is president of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the doctoral-granting institution of the nation's largest university. From 1998 through June 2005, he served as the Graduate Center's provost and senior vice president, a tenure that was marked by the recruitment of a remarkable cadre of internationally renowned scholars to the school's faculty.
A distinguished American literature scholar and an expert on the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Dr. Kelly is the author of Plotting America's Past: Fenimore Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales. His essays and reviews have appeared in a broad range of publications including the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Book Review, and The American Scholar. He is the editor of the Random House edition of The Selected Works of Washington Irving and the Oxford University Press edition of The Pathfinder. He is currently at work on a book about John Jacob Astor.
Dr. Kelly graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1971, where he won the David Bowers Prize in American Studies. He was named Outstanding Graduate Student in English at Indiana University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1976. Dr. Kelly also holds a diploma in intellectual history from Cambridge University and in 1980 received a Fulbright Fellowship to France, where he subsequently became visiting professor at the University of Paris. He was also executive director of the CUNY/Paris Exchange Program and, in 2003, was named Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Ministry of Education in recognition of his contributions to Franco-American educational and cultural relations.
On the faculty of CUNY's Queens College from 1976 to 1998, he was named Queens College's Golden Key Honor Society Teacher of the Year in 1994. He was appointed concurrently to the faculty of the Graduate Center's Ph.D. Program in English in 1986 and served as the program's executive officer from 1996 to 1998.
Dr. Kelly is the vice chairman of the CUNY Research Foundation and serves as a trustee of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Author Francine du Plessix Gray discusses the joy she finds in revising historical figures of the 18th century. Gray has penned biographies on Madame de Stael, the wife of Marquis de Sade, and Marie Antoinette.