When it comes to bringing in a diverse array of speakers on countless subjects, Butler University’s various lecture series deliver year in and year out. In this issue, we spotlight two of the four series Butler will be offering in the 2010-11 school year. Next week, we will cover the Woods Lecture Series and the Leadership Through the Arts forum.
Visiting Writers Series
The Visiting Writers Series promises an eclectic lineup this year.
“We really do try and bring in diversity,” Nonie Vonnegut-Gabovitch, program coordinator for the series, said. “I think it’s really important that people know how fortunate we are. Vivian Delbrook made a really wonderful endowment that enables us to bring in top notch people.”
This year’s lineup offers a set of writers with quite diverse backgrounds: from poets like Kim Addonizio, who spoke Sept. 16, to crime writers such as Elmore Leonard, who will be speaking in December.
The diversity of this year’s speakers goes beyond their writing genres.
“We try and make it a mix of authors and poets that people are somewhat familiar with, but also try and balance that with some up-and-coming authors that might relate better to students,” she said.
The writer selection process is a collaborative event between Vonnegut-Gabovitch and her colleagues.
“There’s a committee of five English professors that I work with to decide who they would like me to pursue,” she said.
The professors hear about the writers through various sources.
“A few of our English professors will go to [The Association of Writers and Writing Programs], which is a really big writers conference, and hear a lot of writers give readings,” Vonnegut-Gabovitch said.
When they hear of a writer whose work they particularly enjoy, the professors present their ideas to her and the process of thinking of a lineup begins. This usually happens each November for the following school year.
This process also involves students, as many of Butler’s English faculty converse with their students about which writers they’d like to see.
“Our mission is to try to expose students especially to as many great writers as we can here on campus,” Vonnegut-Gabovitch said. “In order to get them to come, we recognize that we also need to be looking at younger writers.”
A very interactive aspect of the Visiting Writers Series is the Question and Answer session which usually takes place the day after the reading.
“That’s in some ways even better than the reading,” Vonnegut-Gabovitch said. “[The students] can ask pointed questions.”
The Q&A sessions will also be available through Butler’s website so that students can access them if they are unable to attend.
This more comprehensive way of compiling the readings will make them available to a much wider public.
Even though English students often show the most interest in the Writers Series, Vonnegut-Gabovitch asserts that the series can be of great benefit to Butler students in all fields.
Butler’s new cultural requirement may play a part in bringing more students to the readings, but she believes that they are worth attending regardless.
“We’ve got a great lineup,” she said. “I’ve had more people in the last month seeing who we’re bringing comment on [it], so I know that it’s a banner lineup.”
This year’s upcoming lineup includes: Yusef Komunyakaa (Sep. 23), Jean Valentine (Oct. 18), Lorrie Moore (Nov. 1), Jonathan Lethem (Nov. 15), Elmore Leonard (Dec. 6), George Saunders (Feb. 8), Mark Halliday (Feb. 23), Alicia Erian (TBD), Bob Hicok (Mar. 7), Taylor Mali (Mar. 22), Marilyn Chin (Mar. 28), and Richard Russo (Apr. 12).
Center for Faith and Vocation Series
For the past 17 years, Butler’s Center for Faith and Vocation has put together a lecture series that addresses faith and religion in today’s society.
“The goal is to really bring to the forefront the fact that religion and issues about religion in a global society are very real issues, and that it’s a good thing to stop and take a really good look at ways in which religion or religious concerns are intersecting in the public policy of the United States, international issues, culture and diversity,” Judy Cebula, director of the Center for Faith and Vocation, said.
“It is an intellectual venture. It’s not a religious event. It’s really about our political system,” she said.
Matters of faith are becoming a polarizing factor in today’s world, and the series attempts to address the role of religion from a scholarly standpoint by bringing in speakers from various backgrounds and experiences.
This year, the series is organized into four themes, each approaching faith from a different standpoint.
“Religion as a Promoter of Peace, Perpetuator of Violence” with speaker Scott Appleby will open the program on Sept. 28.
Following that, “The Future of Islam” on Oct. 26 features Reza Aslan of the University of California, who has also appeared as a commentator on shows such as “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
The spring semester lectures include “Religious Violence: Myth or Global Reality?” on Jan. 26 with speaker William Cavanaugh. “Faith-Based Development Work and Peacemaking” on Mar. 1 with speaker Katherine Marshall will be of interest for students considering international work of any kind, Cebula said.
Each series will include two respondents,
usually professors from Butler or
surrounding colleges and universities
Admission for all events is free.