Slate of Montgomery Fellows Into 2024 Announced

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Visitors range from writer Phil Klay ’05 to ex-Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga.

Phil Clay
National Book Award winner Phil Klay ’05 will be on campus for his Montgomery Fellows residency for the week of Feb. 19. (Photo by Hannah Dunphy)

The Montgomery Fellows Program today announced a full slate of distinguished visitors stretching through winter term 2024, from the former president of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga to an in-person follow-up residency by National Book Award winner Phil Klay ’05.

Klay shifted to a remote residency in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his weeklong visit in mid-February kicks off a slate of incoming Montgomery Fellows, including four consecutive term-long residencies starting in spring term. The new fellows will join the Dartmouth community, living in the Montgomery House, teaching, and making connections with students.

“The goal of the Montgomery Fellows Program is to have maximum impact on the student body, with a focus on the undergraduates,” says Steve Swayne, the Jacob H. Strauss 1922 Professor of Music and director of the Montgomery Fellows Program.

“The best place to do this is in the classroom. And not merely to visit classrooms, but to actually have a classroom. To be the professor of record, in cooperation with these different departments and programs. That’s what we’re doing for the next four terms,” Swayne says.

Montgomery Fellows
Clockwise from upper left are author Hoda Barakat; literary critic Hortense Spillers; computer science professor Cal Newport ’04; and former Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga.

Following Klay’s residency, the four visitors in residence will be:

  • Spring 2023: Hoda Barakat, Lebanese author whose writings include: The Stone of Laughter (1995), which features a gay male protagonist, and The Night Mail, which received the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Barakat, a former visiting professor at Dartmouth, will be teaching in the Middle Eastern Studies Program.
  • Summer 2023: Cal Newport ’04New York Times bestselling author and computer science professor at Georgetown University, whose TED Talk, media appearances, and podcast reach millions. Newport will be a visiting faculty member in the Department of Computer Science.
  • Fall 2023: Hortense Spillers, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor Emerita from Vanderbilt, whose pioneering work on arts and letters from an African American perspective have launched hundreds of careers and conversations. Spillers will be affiliated with the Department of English and Creative Writing.
  • Winter 2024: Atifete Jahjaga, former president of Kosovo and founder of the Jahjaga Foundation, whose goals include increasing the number of women and youth in the decision-making structures of politics and society. Jahjaga will be a visiting professor in the Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Phil Klay ’05 returns

Klay (rhymes with eye), a Marine veteran whose collection of short stories from the Iraq war, Redeployment, won the 2014 National Book Award, participated in remote residency in August 2020. That visit included a range of virtual talks and panel discussions with members of the community. His session with former trustee and fellow Marine veteran Nate Fick ’99, titled Marine Memories and Civilian Life, is one of the most powerful videos on the Montgomery Fellows website, Swayne says.

“His virtual visit was successful in its own right, but we had always planned to bring him to campus,” Swayne says. “The folks in creative writing are excited to have him back. He is a graduate of English and creative writing. He has friends in the department and they’re eager to showcase him.”

Klay says he is looking forward to being on campus again.

“It was lovely to do the virtual fellowship, but one of the things that I really wanted to be able to do was to directly interact with Dartmouth students and also Dartmouth faculty. I’m working on a new novel and having access to the resources Dartmouth has will be nice. And there are some folks that I’d love to chat with,” Klay says.

Klay’s first novel, Missionaries, was published in October 2020 to much acclaim, including its selection by former president Barack Obama as one of the best books of 2020.

“It’s a great place and I think it’ll be good for my writing and hopefully I’ll be of some use to Dartmouth as well while I’m there,” says Klay, an English professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

During his week on campus, Klay will meet with the creative writing faculty and students as well as MALS students, visiting several classes, and gathering with a few of the house communities over meals. He will give a public talk at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, in Filene Auditorium. The event, Literature in a Time of Crisis, is free and open to the public.

In the introduction to his essay collection, Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War, published last spring, Klay writes that his work has evolved from questions about what his experiences of war have meant to him personally and how this can be communicated across differences, to “what our wars say about us as Americans, how they have distorted our politics and culture.” He says he hopes to explore these ideas during his time at Dartmouth.

“One thing that I really am committed to is the notion that the humanities have a vital role to play in how we think about and process war and our sense of who we are as Americans,” he says.

“So that is something that I am going to be talking about and thinking through—this very strange place that we find ourselves in right now politically and structurally, where America is deeply involved around the world in war and yet those wars remain mostly invisible to the average American.”

Bill Platt