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UChicago Writers Include University in Cast of Characters

Many University of Chicago alumni who go on to publish fiction—such as Philip Roth, AM’55, Saul Bellow, X’39, Andrew Greeley, AM’61, PhD’62, Sara Paretsky, AM’69, MBA’77, PhD’77 , and Georg Mann, AB’35—find the University irresistible as a source of setting, conflict, or in some situations, character. Authors have chosen to use the University as a backdrop for characters stalled on dissertation work, as a site of social or political progress, and often as a comfort and inspiration to characters looking to live, in Philip Roth’s words, a life that is “enormous.” These “enormous” lives are fraught with a number of failures and successes, but for alumni, current faculty members, and even non-alumni, the University as a character or setting is a captivating concept. For some authors though, the captivation turns to intrigue as Alzina Stone Dale, AM’57, reveals in her 1995 book Mystery Reader’s Walking Guide: Chicago, which weaves readers in and out of the campus and the Hyde Park neighborhood to retrace the paths of fictional sleuths.

If you want to brush up on the fictional happenings at the University, consult this article and read the reflections of twenty-one novelists and poets with connections to the University in An Unsentimental Education: Writers and Chicago, by Molly McQuade, AB’81 For those simply hoping to tour the locations that inspired these authors, a literary map of campus can be found here.

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