The Wittenberg Series (colloquially “Witt Series”) is a selection of lectures, performances and otherwise events sponsored by Wittenberg University, by way of various endowments and individual sponsors. The series runs throughout the year and has, since September, brought performances by the likes of author Jonathan Safran Foer, the Diavolo Dance Company and artist Derek Boshier. I enjoy the Witt Series events a lot. This academic year’s selection came to a close last night (Thursday), with novelist Sara Gruen coming to Springfield.
Honestly, I hadn’t ever heard of Sara Gruen, either because I’m ignorant, or because I haven’t read much other than textbooks during the last seven months. But since novelists are generally the kinds of people I like surrounding myself with, I went anyway. Apparently, Gruen’s recent bestselling book Water for Elephants, is being released as a motion picture adaptation this month (with names like Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in starring roles) and the word on the street is that she writes good books.
Worth mentioning also is the fact that this was the inaugural lecture in the Dr. Allen J. Koppenhaver Literary Lecture series, which promises to bring us fine speakers for years to come. As I discovered, Dr. Koppenhaver was a highly-renowned professor of English at Wittenberg, who—according to the Springfield News-Sun—began his 32-year career here in 1961. Koppenhaver having been an admirer of life, music and the circus, Sara Gruen, whose Water for Elephants describes life in and around a Depression era circus, had been chosen as an appropriate speaker for the first lecture in Koppenhaver’s memory. As someone quite new to the Wittenberg tradition, it’s fun to learn about people like him and Wittenberg history.
Unlike some quasi-famous writers (who shall remain unnamed) I’ve seen in similar speaking situations, who have come off as uncaring, detached and pretentious, Sara Gruen was virtuous and wonderful, and made us all feel like we were having a conversation with here. All the hundreds of us in Weaver Chapel. There were plenty of fun stories of life as a writer and she just seemed like a wonderful person. She’s definitely won my attention and I hope to give her books a go over the summer.
What I’m saying is, high praise for the Witt Series
Keep on keeping on,