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University of Utah honors essayist and novelist Jonathan Franzen with the 2020 Award in Environmental Humanities

The award recognizes Franzen’s environmental justice and activism

Jonathan Franzen

Feb. 25, 2020 – The University of Utah’s environmental humanities graduate program will award American essayist and novelist Jonathan Franzen with the 2020 Award in the Environmental Humanities, Wednesday, March 4 at 7 p.m. in the Salt Lake City Main library.

Franzen’s environmental essays have stirred audiences on the subjects of climate mitigation, the importance of birds, interspecies ethics and human resilience in a changing world. Franzen has been an outspoken voice for the environment in his fiction across five novels and five works of non-fiction including “The Corrections,” “Freedom” and “The End of the End of the Earth.” 

"Bringing a writer of Franzen’s status to campus is a rare opportunity for our students and for the broader community,” said Jeffrey McCarthy, director of the program. "We are especially excited to underline the important environmental contributions he has made with his essays and his novels.”

The Utah Award in the Environmental Humanities celebrates environmental leadership and expression. The $10,000 award honors those who solve the planet’s environmental problems using tools of the humanities, such as creative expression, scholarly research, popular art forms and advocacy.

“This award is the world’s first prize in the field of environmental humanities. It celebrates our recipients while putting their goals in the spotlight. It also further distinguishes our environmental humanities graduate program,” added McCarthy. 

The environmental humanities graduate program is housed in the College of Humanities and is the United States’ first master’s degree in the field. The program positions talented students to study climate change, resilience, advocacy and solutions to environmental problems. Environmental humanities encourages creative and scholarly exchanges as it trains the next generation of environmental thinkers and leaders.

--Jana Cunningham, College of Humanities, 801-213-0866,


Last Updated: 6/1/21