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  October 12, 2004

English Professor Chosen To Write Philip Roth's Biography

Ross Miller, a professor of English and comparative literature at UConn, has been chosen to write a critical biography of Philip Roth.

"This will be the definitive biography of Philip Roth," said Janet Silver, vice-president and publisher at Houghton Mifflin, which will publish the work. Miller has been granted unlimited access to Roth's correspondence and papers, as well as to his family members and friends.

Image: Ross Miller

Ross Miller, professor of English, will be Philip Roth's biographer.
Photo by Melissa Arbo

Miller also was selected recently by the Library of America as the sole editor of its comprehensive eight-volume edition of Roth's entire body of work. The publication will run from 2005 to 2013.

Roth is the third living writer to be published by the Library of America. He has published more than 30 books. In October, Houghton Mifflin will publish his 21st novel, The Plot Against America.

"Philip Roth is a writer of stunning originality," said Miller. "In the last 10 years alone, he has published seven major works. No other contemporary American writer has so brilliantly depicted in all its compelling detail the relationship between history and place in the lives of ordinary people."

Roth first achieved fame with Goodbye, Columbus in 1959, and won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral in 1997. Portnoy's Complaint, his third novel, became a number one best-seller in 1969. Among his more recent works are Patrimony (1991); Operation Shylock (1993); Sabbath's Theater (1995); American Pastoral (1997); I Married a Communist (1998); and The Human Stain (2000).

"The anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era of the 1950's, the impact of the Vietnam War in the 1960's, and the backlash to the excesses of the 1990's enter with all their chaotic power into the lives of Roth's characters," said Miller.

"His characters' intense engagement with those unleashed forces of passion and fate that thwart all their efforts at control has re-invigorated the novel and raised Philip Roth to the highest rank of American writers."

Miller has taught at UConn since 1972, and has been a visiting professor at Yale, Wesleyan, Ohio State, and UCLA. He holds a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2004-2005.

A frequent critic at the Yale School of Architecture, Miller has also served as co-director of the Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism, contributing editor at Progressive Architecture, and a consultant to the Art Institute of Chicago's Department of Architecture. Miller's writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, in addition to Critical Inquiry and other scholarly journals.

He has received major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts, among other honors. He is the author of American Apocalypse: The Great Fire and the Myth of Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 1990), and Here's the Deal: The Making and Breaking of a Great American City (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), which was the subject of a BBC film (The Billion Dollar Hole) and was published in a new edition in 2002. In 2006, Houghton Mifflin will publish Miller's study of the historical circumstances of the Jewish immigration to the United States, Free At Last: Why The Jews Discovered America.