Dyer Joins English Department

Award-winning author Geoff Dyer will teach undergraduate and graduate courses beginning this Fall.
BySusan Bell

USC Dornsife has recruited award-winning British author Geoff Dyer to join its English department faculty as a writer in residence beginning this Fall. Dyer is the author of seven genre-defying works of nonfiction and four novels, as well as three collections of essays and numerous works of criticism and journalism.

Known for his relentless curiosity, Dyer’s incisive and irreverent wit skewers pretension of any sort, while reflecting upon the most intimate human experiences with compassion. He is renowned for his ability to view the most complex artistic achievements with a clarifying sensibility and intelligence.

Among his numerous awards and honors, he recently won a prestigious 2015 Windham Campbell Literature Prize in the nonfiction category and was elected a foreign honorary member — literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Geoff is a prolific writer whose work is acclaimed for its remarkable range, insight, energy and humor,” said Steve Kay, dean of USC Dornsife. “We are thrilled to have him join our English faculty and to have our students learning more about the intricacies of their craft through his expertise.”

As writer in residence, Dyer will teach fiction and nonfiction literature classes, as well as workshops in both genres, at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He will also teach literature and film at both levels.

David St. John, professor of English and comparative literature and chair of English, said Dyer’s brilliance, which touches so many fields, means his presence at USC Dornsife will resonate far beyond the English department and the Ph.D. program in literature and creative writing.

“As his many prizes make clear, Geoff has a truly international reputation as a novelist, essayist and critic; he is eclectic in his interests,” St. John said. “He can move with ease from writing about jazz to photography, yet also delve deeply into those issues we think of as essential human values. He is known as one of the funniest, most inventive and acerbic writers on the planet.”

Dyer’s expertise in photography, cinema and visual studies, as well his multi-genre agility as a writer, will be an important contribution to the English department, St. John added.

Image Description

Dyer sports a cowboy outfit as a small child in England.

Dyer said he is excited to join USC Dornsife.

“I’m conscious that I’ll be surrounded by excellent writers and distinguished scholars,” Dyer said. “Together with the high quality of students this will make it an extremely stimulating environment for me to be in. I am looking forward enormously to making my own contribution to an already illustrious history.”

In his most recent book, Another Great Day at Sea (Pantheon Books, 2014), Dyer chronicles his experiences on the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, where he spent two weeks as writer in residence. Dyer’s other nonfiction work covers a wide range of subjects, from photography to travel and from music to the Battle of the Somme. But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz (Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1991) was awarded the Somerset Maugham Prize, and Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence (Little, Brown and Company, 1997) was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.

Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It (Pantheon Books, 2003) won the W.H. Smith Best Travel Book Award in 2004, while The Ongoing Moment (Little, Brown and Company, 2005) won the International Centre of Photography’s 2006 Infinity Award for Writing on Photography. Dyer also wrote The Missing of the Somme (Hamish Hamilton, 1994) about World War I,and Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room (Canongate Books, Ltd., 2012), an investigation into Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 cinematic masterpiece Stalker.

Dyer’s novels are equally far-ranging in subject. Paris Trance (Abacus, 1998) is a pseudo-autobiographical tale of romance and self-discovery in the French capital. The Search (Hamish Hamilton, 1993) describes a mysterious quest to find a missing man in a parallel universe. The Colour of Memory (Jonathan Cape, Ltd., 1989) is a snapshot of a different Lost Generation living in destitute conditions in 1980s South London. His most recent novel, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (Pantheon Books, 2009), is a tale of longing and lust set in Italy and India that won the 2009 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for best comic novel.

The winner of a Lannan Literary Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ E.M. Forster Award, Dyer is a regular contributor to many publications in the United States and the United Kingdom. He is also the winner of the 2009 GQ Writer of the Year Award. In 2011, he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for the book of essays Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (Graywolf Press, 2011).

In addition to authoring this and two other collections of essays, Dyer is the editor of John Berger: Selected Essays (Bloomsbury, 2001) and co-editor, with Margaret Sartor, of What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney (Norton, 2000).

Born and raised in Cheltenham in the U.K., Dyer is an only child. His father was a sheet-metal worker and his mother worked in a school cafeteria. He was educated at his local grammar school before winning a scholarship to study English at University of Oxford’s Corpus Christi College.

In Fall 2014, Dyer was a Mellon Distinguished Scholar at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2005, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2014 was elected as an honorary fellow of University of Oxford’s Corpus Christi College.

Prior to joining USC Dornsife, Dyer was a visiting professor at the University of Iowa and Columbia University. He has also taught creative writing at the University of East Anglia, as well as courses on writing at the University of London and University of Oxford’s extra-mural departments.