Wittenberg Series Lands Acclaimed Author

The Wittenberg Series will bring versatile and distinguished author Joyce Carol Oates to campus to speak on Monday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 p.m. in Weaver Chapel.

The event, titled “A Reading and Conversation,” will entail a reading from a short story titled “Mastiff” from her newest book of stories “Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories,” as well as a discussion on the process of writing fiction.

Cynthia Richards, chair of the English Department, said Oates’ visit constitutes an extraordinary opportunity to engage with a prolific writer.

“We’re really excited to have such a major player who has shaped the modern Gothic genre both through literary criticism and by producing the work,” Richards said. “This opportunity could not be better for our university.”

Oates published her first book in 1963, and has since authored over 40 novels, in addition to various plays, short stories, poems, literary critiques, and essays. In 2010, Oates was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama, and she has also been presented with various other honors that recognize all different forms of her work — from The National Book Award, to the PEN Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, to multiple lifetime literary achievement awards. Oates currently serves as the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University, a position she’s held since 1978.

Associate Professor of English Lori Askeland said that Oates will bring insight that is particularly beneficial for aspiring writers.

“I think the talk will show the courage and audacity it takes to put yourself out there and be a writer,” Askeland said, “as well as how much of writing is just about persistence, about showing up every day.”

R. Clifton Spargo, author and Dixon professor of creative writing, described Oates as one of the 10 most important living American novelists, and said that the significance of her work spans beyond aspiring writers and is useful for everyone.

“The importance of her work deals with the reason we all read,” Spargo said.  “We read to probe the most difficult parts of our selves, our society — Oates does this consistently with great precision and penetration.”

According to Christina Reynolds, academic administrative assistant of the English Department, out of 20 potential speakers recommended by the department, Oates was on the top of the list throughout the entire selection process. Oates was recommended by the English Department to the Programming Committee, the faculty and student committee responsible for coordinating the Wittenberg Series, and was booked through her agency, The Steven Barclay Agency, last spring.

Corwin Georges, chair of the Programming Committee, said he is excited for such an “outstanding literary figure” to be visiting.

In addition to her talk, Oates will also participate in a colloquium at 4 p.m. in Bayley Auditorium. The doors will open for admission 30 minutes before each event. Both are open to the general public, and are free of charge. The piece Oates will read can be found online in “The New Yorker.”

The talk is this year’s annually sponsored Dr. Allen J. Koppenhaver Literary Lecture, named for the longtime Wittenberg professor of English who passed away in 1993, and is presented through the sponsorship of the Ellen, Lloyd, Margaret, and Lanty Smith Endowed Fund for Wittenberg.

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