Literary Exercises

Festival Rites

The Phi Beta Kappa Literary Exercises are held each year on Tuesday of Commencement Week. They have been a traditional part of Harvard Commencement since the eighteenth century. The Literary Exercises celebrate the humane learning and passion for intellectual exchange that are the ideal and hallmark of the Chapter. The two foci of the Exercises program are a reading by a Poet and an address by an Orator invited by the Chapter.

The 229th Literary Exercises will take place at 11 am on Tuesday 28 May 2018 in Sanders Theatre. The exercises are free and open to the public.

Our orator this year is Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and leader of the Human Genome Project.

Our poet this year is Dan Chiasson, the Lorraine C. Wang Professor of English at Wellesley College and poetry critic at The New Yorker.

Recent Orators and Poets

2018 Neil Shubin, Kevin Young
2017 Sherry Turkle, Mark Doty
2016 Stephen Greenblatt, Robyn Schiff
2015 S. Allen Counter, Laura Kasischke
2014 Andrea Barrett, Donald Revell
2013 Linda Greenhouse, August Kleinzahler
2012 Derek Bok, Kay Ryan
2011 Joyce Carol Oates, Henri Cole
2010 Natalie Zemon Davis, D. A. Powell
2009 James Engell, Albert Goldbarth
2008 Steven Weinberg, Carl Phillips
2007 Jeremy Waldron, C.D. Wright
2006 Sean Wilentz, Elizabeth Alexander
2005 John Deutch, Robert Creeley
2004 Niall Ferguson, David P. Smith
2003 Ruth Simmons, Mary Oliver
2002 Simon Schama, Charles Wright
2001 Garrison Keillor, Lucie Brock-Broido
2000 K. Anthony Appiah, Heather McHugh
1999 Martha Minow, Frank Bidart
1998 E.O. Wilson, Usef Komunyakaa
1999 Anne Fadiman, Paul Muldoon
1996 Diana Eck, David Ferry
1995 Margaret Geller, John Holland
1994 Madeleine Albright, Allen Ginsberg
1993 John Wideman, Rita Dove
1992 Dudley Herschbach, Jorie Graham
1991 Grace Paley, Alan Dugan
1990 Arnold S. Relman, Louise Gluck
1989 J. Anthony Lewis, W.S. Merwin
1988 Nadine Gordimer, Charles Simic
1987 Alfred Kazin, Amy Clampitt
1986 Freeman Dyson, Michael Harper
1985 Cynthia Ozick, Robert Bly
1984 Margaret MacVicar, Seamus Heaney
1983 Annie Dillard, Galway Kinnell
1982 John Kenneth Galbraith, May Swenson