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Oates Not as Well Received as Anticipated

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While some students enjoyed Wittenberg Series speaker Joyce Carol Oates, other students said that Oates fell short of expectations, despite her much anticipated arrival.

Oates addressed audience members in Weaver Chapel as part of the 2014-2015 WittSeries, and she gave her presentation entitled “A Conversation and Reading” on Monday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m.

The chapel was mostly full, and audience members ranged from students to professors to Springfield community members. Many first-year seminar students were required to attend.

Oates, the author of novels, short stories, children’s books, essays, plays and anthologies, read from her work “This I Believe: Five Motives for Writing,” which was published in the 2014 Kenyon Review, and from her short story “Mastiff,” which was published in The New Yorker in 2013.

While Oates read, many audience members from the student sector became disengaged, as they turned their attentions to their phones; several students turned to Yik Yak as an outlet for their complaints.

“As I looked around, I could see that I wasn’t the only one who zoned out or got distracted,” senior Paulo Bezerra said.

Bezerra went on to say that he was surprised at the amount of people, and also that he was expecting the presentation to be Oates giving audience members tips on writing instead of Oates reading from her short story.

Another student, freshman Stephanie Atkinson, held a similar opinion.

“It may have been intriguing for English majors, but for a biology major such as myself, I was bored out of my mind,” Atkinson said. “I don’t think Oates appealed to most of the college atmosphere.”

After the reading, there was a brief question-and-answer session; many audience members—primarily students—left before the Q&A, which left Oates to answer questions from audience members for about 15 minutes after her readings.

Oates’ colloquium at 4 p.m. earlier in the day received better reviews from students.

“The four o’clock Colloquium was amazing! It was very intimate and she gave some great tips on writing historically and creatively,” said senior Jeff Hurley. “I learned a lot about just taking time through the process of writing and the importance to just take things slow and admire what’s around. The world is a story.”

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