Robert J. Begiebing is the author of thirty articles and stories, a play, and six books, including an historical New England trilogy of novels spanning 1648-1850. His final novel in the trilogy, Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction (UPNE, 2003), won the Langum Prize for historical fiction in 2003. The first novel in the trilogy, The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin (Algonquin, 1991, 1996), was chosen as a Main Selection for the Mystery and Literary Guild Book Clubs, has been optioned for a film, and is now available from the University Press of New England in a new 20th anniversary e-book and hard copy edition.
His novels, including a third book in the trilogy The Adventures of Allegra Fullerton (UPNE 1999, 2001), have been widely and favorably reviewed in The New York Times, The Times of London, The Los Angeles Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Yankee Magazine, and Library Journal among many other national and regional periodicals. He is also the author of two critical books on twentieth-century fiction, and an historical anthology of nature writing in English since the 18th century.
His fiction writing has been supported by grants from the Lila-Wallace Foundation and the New Hampshire Council for the Arts. In 2007, Governor John Lynch appointed Begiebing to the Council for the Arts. In 2009 he served as one of the inaugural faculty members at the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. He has been a finalist judge for the Langum Prize in historical fiction twice (2009-2010), and a member of the board of trustees for the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He currently serves on the board of the Norman Mailer Society and on the editorial board of The Mailer Review.
He is Founding Director of the Low-Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction at Southern New Hampsire University, where he has won three awards for excellence in teaching and is currently Professor of English, Emeritus.
Begiebing’s biographical novel about the great British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. The Turner Erotica, explores the mysterious relationship between Turner’s secret life and work, and his public life and work, a mystery that Begiebing believes has yet to be fully explored or adequately explained.
Upon his death in 1851 at the age of seventy-six, Turner left a massive legacy of paintings and sketch studies to the National Gallery in London. Critic John Ruskin and Gallery Keeper Ralph Wornum, charged with sorting and cataloging that legacy, were shocked to discover a considerable body of erotica and other materials suggesting a secret life about which they and Turner’s colleagues had little knowledge. Documentary evidence suggests that to protect Turner’s reputation, Ruskin and Wornum burned most of the erotic materials.
Begiebing’s talk and slide show will consider Turner’s life and work, as a context for readers to better understand the novel, and to better appreciate Turner’s influence on American writers and artists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Arranged by Alex Garnett