Ivan Doig Symposium celebrates the work of famous Montana writer

Community members engage in discussion about “This House of Sky” by Ivan Doig during a symposium about Ivan Doig’s works in Bozeman, Mont. Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Photo by Megan Hansen.

Often referred to as “the dean of western writers,” Ivan Doig wrote over a dozen novels throughout his lifetime. Nearly all of his work is based in his native Montana, where he was born in 1939. The author and memoirist was the recipient of the prestigious Wallace Stegner Award and received more Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards than any other author. This week, just over two years after his death, Montana State University is hosting the symposium “Doig Country: Imagining Montana and the West” to explore and highlight the contributions and impact of the author.


The four-day symposium, held from Sept. 13-16, will hold a variety of events that offer insight into the life and work of Doig. On Wednesday evening, The Country Bookshelf hosted a discussion of “This House of Sky,” a memoir of his childhood growing up amongst ranchers and sheepherders in the Montana wilderness with his father and grandmother.


Thursday will hold eight events throughout the day. Among them will be an hourly tour between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. of the Ivan Doig Archive in the Renne Library Special Collections,  established in 2015 when Carol Doig donated her husband’s papers to MSU. At 3 p.m., Carol Doig will be participating in a panel discussion with Lois Welch, the wife of James Welch, a late author and friend of Ivan Doig. Patricia Limerick, the director of the Center of the American West, will hold a keynote address at 6 p.m. at the Museum of the Rockies.


Friday will host another full day of wide-ranging events from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. The day will explore themes such as “Ivan Doig: Writer and Historian,” “The Geography of Ivan Doig,”  “Reading and Teaching Ivan Doig,” “Western Landscapes and Legends,” among others. Rebecca Saletan, who was Doig’s editor, will deliver a lecture on “The Poetry Under the Prose: Editing Ivan” at 12:30 p.m.


On Saturday, there will be a unique opportunity to take a guided tour to Doig’s birthplace in White Sulphur Springs. It is the only the event throughout the symposium that has a cost.  The fee is set at $50, and will cover the bus fare, lunch and programming, which will include a stop in Ringling, a visit to the Castle Museum, time to explore the streets and a tasting at the 2 Basset Brewery. A reservation a required to attend this trip.


The symposium is sponsored by the College of Letters and Science, the Center for Western Lands and People and the MSU Library. The event will include presentations, panel discussions, poetry readings, art exhibitions, conversations and more by over 30 scholars and other individuals connected to Doig or Imagining Montana. The events will take place in numerous locations throughout Bozeman and the university campus.


Although the tour to White Sulphur Springs will be the only event with a cost, several of the events require registration beforehand. A full program schedule and further information can be found at ivandoig.montana.edu/symposium-2017.