Distributed March 2, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Scott Turner

The 2000 Sheridan Lecture

Novelist William Styron to discuss depression and recovery

Novelist William Styron will present “Darkness Visible: The Loss and Recovery of Self” at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, 2000, in the Salomon Center for Teaching. Styron’s address is the 2000 Harriet W. Sheridan Literature and Medicine Lecture. The event is free and open to the public.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Novelist William Styron will present the 2000 Harriet W. Sheridan Literature and Medicine Lecture at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, 2000, in the Salomon Center for Teaching, located on The College Green. Styron will speak about his descent into depression and his path to recovery. His talk is free and open to the community and will be followed by a public reception.

In 1985, Styron, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie’s Choice and other highly acclaimed novels, fell into a near-suicidal depression. He recovered and chronicled the experience in the #1 bestseller, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.

Styron has spoken publicly and written about his illness in the belief that his shared experience may bring solace to others.

“William Styron has demystified the pathways of mental illness by writing with a poignancy and immediacy that connects with people instantly,” said Lynn Epstein, M.D., associate dean of medicine in the Brown University School of Medicine. Epstein helped establish the lecture and oversees the annual program.

“Those who haven’t experienced the depths of depression may not understand what the illness does, what agony people feel, and the challenges and difficulties they face daily. This is a man of great courage and conviction who has opened himself up, sharing his most private moments and deepest self doubts.”

Born in Newport News, Va., in 1925, Styron served a brief stint in the Marine Corps during World War II and graduated from Duke University in 1947. After publishing his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, in 1951, he received the Prix de Rome award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1967, he received the Pulitzer Prize for The Confessions of Nat Turner. His other works include The Long March, Set This House on Fire, Sophie’s Choice and This Quiet Dust.

“Mr. Styron is a world-class writer who describes his experience in way that gives it voice, allowing others to grasp what deep depression feels like,” Epstein said. “He has created an understandable paradigm of mental illness and that’s a gift for us all.”

In its eighth year, the Sheridan Lecture offers the community nationally recognized speakers who explore narratives from patients and families, stories of mental illness or writings of physicians. Having patients, doctors and other caregivers share their viewpoints is a way to establish a shared language, Epstein said.

Harriet W. Sheridan was a former dean of the College and professor of English at Brown. She died in 1992. “Harriet believed that it shouldn’t be necessary for a doctor to become ill or for a doctor’s family member to become ill in order for that doctor to understand what it’s like to deal with illness,” Epstein said.

The Sheridan Lecture is the first literature and medicine lectureship of its kind at a medical school. This year, the Brown University School of Medicine is celebrating its 25th anniversary of medical education, research and patient care.

For more information on the Sheridan Lecture, call (401) 863-1140.