Founded in 1833, the Washington Literary Society is the oldest student organization at Randolph-Macon College. The society sponsors activities in literature and the arts, such as poetry readings, lectures, coffee houses following drama guild productions, film viewings and discussions, and discussions with visiting authors and poets. It promotes the arts on campus and publishes Stylus, the college’s literary magazine.
Literary societies flourished in the 19th century, but their influence declined in the first half of the century because of competition from Greek fraternities. In the 1940s, Merrill Munyan, a professor of history at Randolph-Macon, revived interest in the Washington Literary Society. At bi-monthly meetings held at his home, members discussed literary topics, read plays, and had poetry readings. Professor Munyan even renovated his house to accommodate the society’s gatherings and its special guests. He also established the Merrill Munyan Fund to enable the college to bring to campus writers, poets, dramatists, and critics to support interest in the literary arts.
Visiting Writers and Poets sponsored by the Merrill Munyan Fund & The Washington Literary Society:
Margaret AtwoodKwame Dawes Anne Fadiman Eleanor Wilner Maxine Hong Kingston Sarah Vowell Michael Cunningham Czeslaw Milosz Robert Pinsky Ellen Gilchrist Paule Marshall Joyce Carol OatesTom WolfeLee SmithMark StrandWilliam StyronRichard EberhardElizabeth SpencerRichard WilburJames MerrillEdward AlbeeW. H. AudenMargaret Mead