RIT’s Gannett Project Hosts Canadian Journalist, Screenwriter Ryan Knighton Oct. 10

Writer shares insight on his progression into blindness and other life experiences

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Mary Ellen Mark, 2010

Author, lecturer and screenwriter Ryan Knighton will share his insights on blindness, parenthood and other life experiences at RIT’s Caroline Werner Gannett Project, “Visionaries in Motion V,” on Oct. 10 in Webb Auditorium.

Canadian-born journalist, author, professor and screenwriter Ryan Knighton, 38, has not only completed one memoir, he’s actually written three of them. Let’s just say he has a lot of material to work with.

On his 18th birthday, Knighton was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a congenital syndrome that slowly blinded him over the next 10 years. His memoir about the experience, Cockeyed, was published around the world to rave reviews and was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal, Canada’s national award for the funniest book of the year.

Knighton is the second speaker at Rochester Institute of Technology’s 2011-2012 Caroline Werner Gannett Project lecture series. Knighton’s talk, “It’s, Like, For Real: A Life in Autopathography,” is at 8 p.m. Oct. 10 in Webb Auditorium, James E. Booth Hall.

Knighton followed up his first book with C’mon Papa about the perils and pleasures of fatherhood and was met with equally widespread acclaim. In 2008, he was awarded a position at the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab, where he first developed his life story toward a film. Jodie Foster will direct Knighton’s screenplay, which has already won awards from the Tribeca Film Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Knighton’s journalism has appeared in The New York Times, Outside, Salon, Esquire, Men’s Health and The Believer. He is currently working on two new screenplays and is writing a travel book called Nothing To See Here: Around the World in Four Senses. He teaches rhetoric and creative writing at Capilano University in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and collects tattoos he’s never seen.

“Hilarious, unsentimental and feisty, Ryan Knighton engages both sighted and blind worlds with issues he has encountered at the crossroads of memory, storytelling, technology and the human body,” says Mary Lynn Broe, the Caroline Werner Gannett Professor of Humanities at RIT. “Jim Knipfel, author of Slackjaw and Ruining it for Everybody, says, ‘Knighton is a man with a bad, bad attitude. But he’s also got the guts and the style to back it up. He laughs at himself, laughs at the world, sheds the occasional tear and rolls with it.’”

The Gannett Project’s “Visionaries in Motion” series explores new connections across technologies, social sciences and humanities, increasing opportunities for interdisciplinary understanding and collaboration both on campus and in the Greater Rochester community. In 2009, the series was selected by City Newspaper’s Critics’ Pick for “Best Lecture Series in Rochester.”

All Gannett Project talks are free and open to the public. For more information about the Caroline Werner Gannett Project, go to www.cwgp.org.