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Author Madeline Miller closes Eastern's 'Big Read' program

Published on April 18, 2024

Author Madeline Miller closes Eastern's 'Big Read' program

Miller hosts lecture detailing the process of writing "Circe."
Miller hosts a lecture detailing the process of writing "Circe."

New York Times #1 best-selling author Madeline Miller hosted a virtual lecture on her book “Circe” at Eastern Connecticut State University on April 17. Readers from across the state joined in the culminating event of Eastern’s “Big Read” program.

“I’m extremely honored,” said Miller. “It’s a privilege to have so many people thinking so deeply about my work. This is an author’s dream.” 

Students had the opportunity to meet virtually with Miller before the community discussion, asking her about her research as a classics scholar, her creative process as a writer and her experience in the editing and publishing industry. The students connected with Miller as creatives and bonded over their love of writing. 

During the larger, community discussion, Miller spoke about the inspiration for “Circe.” She had first read Homer’s “Odyssey” when she was 13 and was captivated by Circe as a character. Wanting to understand why Circe turned men into pigs, she was disappointed to find no answer. 

Later revisiting the story as a scholar, Miller began to question the perspective of the epic’s hero, Odysseus, or as she called him, “the greatest liar in literature.” From there, she began diving into the details of the text to understand Circe as she is portrayed in the novel — as an artist with a deep connection to humanity.  

Miller said, “Putting a woman artist at the center of an epic story seemed important. I wanted to show that women’s lives, especially their internal lives, count as plot and heroism.” 

English Professor Allison Speicher helped coordinate the lecture. Of the coversation, she said, "Proving, yet again, that she is a masterful storyteller, Miller recounted the genesis and evolution of 'Circe,' helping readers understand how she moved from ancient source texts to the creation of a cast of characters that feels both familiar and delightfully new."

Attendees were invited to ask Miller questions regarding her work. All expressed their gratitude for “Circe” and Miller’s “The Song of Achilles,” expressing hope that she would release more books in the future. 

“'Circe' has been sensational across Eastern and the broader community,” said Sierra Madden ’24, president of the University’s book club. 

With events such as on- and off-campus discussions, a Greek-mythology themed party and lectures by scholars Vincent Tomasso and Carrie Baker, the “Big Read” program has connected Eastern students with readers from the Willimantic area, Central and Southern Connecticut State Universities and the University of Connecticut’s Center for Learning in Retirement.  

The University’s Art Gallery also hosted an exhibit inspired by “Circe” that has been open to the public since the fall.

Written by Marcus Grant