Keynote Speaker

Each spring, undergraduate writers at USC from disciplines across the University convene to share their work, compete for substantial cash prizes, and enjoy themselves at a celebratory banquet.  Last year, 370 students—in majors from Neuroscience to Music—participated in four categories:  Analytical Essay, Researched Essay, Professional Writing, and Creative Works. 
If you’re a USC undergraduate, we encourage you to come join the fun!  You’ve already written a dynamite essay—now reap your reward.  Submission deadline is 11:59 PM on Friday, March 7th.  Click here to submit your work.

This year’s keynote speaker for the 2014 Undergraduate Writers’ Conference is JONATHAN KIRSCH, author, lawyer, and longtime Los Angeles Times book critic.  Jonathan Kirsch is the best-selling author of several books on Jewish and biblical history. His writing is at once scholarly and accessible, making biblical scholarship and history speak eloquently to present day concerns. His work teases out the historical basis of the Bible and looks at the influence the book has had on art, history, and human consciousness.

He has written extensively on the Bible, including A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization (HarperOne), the national best-sellers The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible (Ballantine) and King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel (Ballantine), and the best-selling God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism (Viking). He shifts his gaze to the twentieth century in his most recent book, The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat and a Murder in Paris (W. W. Norton/Liveright), published last year. The book is a biographical account of a young man and the murder that helped spur Kristallnacht.

Kirsch is a Los Angeles native and he comes from a family of writers. He was born in 1949 and attended high school in Culver City. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He came by his law degree (JD) via Loyola University School of Law and has been a member of the California State Bar since 1976. In addition to his scholarship, Kirsch maintains his law practice, specializing in intellectual property and publishing. His father Robert Kirsch was the longtime book critic for the Los Angeles Times as well as a fiction writer himself who published his writing under various pseudonyms. His son Adam Kirsch is a published author in his own right, with six books of both poetry and literary criticism. His writing has appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Slate, The New York Times Book Review, and Poetry.

Jonathan Kirsch has authored thirteen books in total. In addition to his historical writings and biographies, he has written two novels and two books on publishing law. Kirsch has also, for over 40 years, contributed book reviews to the Los Angeles Times and he is the book editor and columnist for The Jewish Journal. Kirsch has given lectures on his work at universities, museums, libraries, synagogues and churches, including the University of Southern California, Antioch University, the Bowers Museum, the Skirball Museum and Cultural Center, the American Jewish University, and the Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz campuses of the University of California. All his work is deeply humanist in its aims as well as its objects.   

Questions or comments? Email Professor Norah Ashe-McNalley, Conference Director: