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MSU hosts symposium on Montana author Ivan Doig

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Beginning in 1978 with the publication “This House of Sky,” Ivan Doig went on to write over a dozen more books of memoir and fiction, most set in the Montana he knew so well. His work is beloved by readers of Western literature and in 2007 earned him the Wallace Stegner Award, which recognizes individuals who have made a sustained contribution to the cultural identity of the West.

Doig, who passed away in 2015, was born in White Sulphur Springs. A third generation Montanan, he grew up along the Rocky Mountain front where much of his writing takes place. A former ranch hand, newspaperman and magazine editor, Doig graduated from Northwestern University where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism, and later earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. In a century’s-end San Francisco Chronicle poll to name the best Western novels and works of non-fiction, Doig was the only living writer with books in the top dozen on both lists for “English Creek” in fiction and “This House of Sky” in non-fiction. He lived in Seattle with his wife Carol, who taught the literature of the American West.

In recognition of Doig’s contributions to the annals of Montana literature and history, Montana State University is hosting a weekend-long symposium Sept. 13-16 on the MSU campus.

The Doig Archive at MSU consists of manuscripts, proofs and galleys, typed and handwritten writing fragments, pocket notebooks, note cards, diaries, journals, photographs, audio/visual material, and memorabilia. A series of correspondence includes letters to and from other writers, publishers and friends.

To augment this collection will be talks by featured speakers that include Patty Limerick, director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado; Nancy Cook, professor of literature at the University of Montana; Alan Weltzien, professor of literature at the University of Montana Western; Rebecca Saletan, Doig’s editor; and Christine Bold, professor of literature at the University of Guelph.

In addition to the symposium speakers, Carol Doig will debut a new film about her late husband’s life and work.

Tours of the Ivan Doig Archive in the MSU Library and several programs on the creation of this rich documentary source and the ways in which scholars and students are already using it will be presented throughout the symposium.

While most of the symposium is devoted to Doig’s work which includes a public discussion of “This House of Sky,” there will also be related art exhibitions, a poetry reading, and sessions that “imagine Montana”—the task that Doig accomplished so brilliantly.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, attendees will have the opportunity to visit Doig country on a group field trip to White Sulphur Springs, Montana. All symposium events are free except for the field trip, which requires preregistration.

Visit for more information and a full schedule of events.

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