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Robinson to speak at annual McBride Lecture

Monday, October 1, 2007  
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By Sara Shumate

The third annual lectureship for the McBride Center for Faith and Literature will feature Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson.

“Oklahoma Christian has always had a tradition of bringing in outstanding speakers to give students inspiration, information and insight,” Professor of English Scott LaMascus said. “This [the McBride Lecture] is the ongoing tradition of bringing in really outstanding people to help catalyze students’ thinking and to inspire them and inform them.”

Robinson is the author of two novels: “Housekeeping,” published in 1981 and “Gilead,” published in 2004. She has also published several nonfiction works including “The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought,” in 1998.

“Robinson has a talent for weaving several subtle motifs together throughout the book. The ones I noticed mainly were the motifs of laughter and beauty,” Senior Amelia Enix said. “The subject matter, a dying preacher writing a letter to his seven year old son seemed a little dry at first, but by the end of the book, I couldn’t put it down. The characters dealt with the issues of atheism, racism against interracial couples, the difficulty of maintaining family relationships, child neglect, senility and death.”

Robinson is also a member of the faculty at the Iowa writer’s workshop at the University of Iowa.

“The characters are not too fully developed, but they are involved in enough complex things that you are led into being connected to them and trying to understand them and where they are coming from, and I think that works well,” Bailey McBride, the professor of English and director of the Honors Program, said. “I think that’s what we need in regard to faith issues. Most of us come from experienced and backgrounds where it is all pretty much cut and dry, and we haven’t had to dig into it or think about it too much. I think the novel forces us to do that.”

“Gilead” has won Robinson several awards including the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. “Gilead” has also received almost unanimous praise from critics. “Housekeeping” was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

“I’ve told my grandchildren that this was the book I wish I had written for them,” McBride said. “The narrator is an elderly father with a very young son, about the age of my grandchildren, and he is trying to write his thoughts to pass on to his son once his son is old enough to read and understand what his dad is saying to him. She’s saying things about faith and family and heritage that I guess all parents want to think may occur in the lives of their children and grandchildren.”

The McBride Center for Faith and Literature is named for McBride and his wife, Joyce. It was founded in 2004. The center’s endowment was made possible by alumni, friends and family of the McBrides.

“It’s a great way to honor Bailey and Joyce McBride, and there’s something really fun about being involved in gratitude,” LaMascus said.

Part of Robinson’s visit will include a course for the Oklahoma Scholar-Leadership Enrichment Program. OSLEP hosts short courses on a variety of topics at four-year colleges and universities across the state.

“I’m really thrilled that the McBride Center got to play a role in bringing OSLEP and these students to our campus, and I hope that it’s the first time of many that we can host an OSLEP seminar in conjunction with the McBride Lecture,” LaMascus said.

The course will be the first one held at Oklahoma Christian University in more than ten years.

“The things she is saying are really connecting with the conversation going on in the nation about spiritual vitality and spiritual authenticity,” LaMascus said. “She is definitely someone who has serious things to say about faith and about literature.”

This year, the McBride lecture will also feature the announcement of the first recipient of the Roaring Lambs Undergraduate Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to recognize students who have completed an internship in editing or publishing on the national level. The name of the fellowship is inspired by “Roaring Lambs: a Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World” by Bob Briner.

“We are trying to help students who aspire to professional roles in editing or publishing to recognize the extreme utility, the extreme importance, of getting an internship with a national group if possible,” LaMascus said. “The funding was provided very generously by a friend of the university from Houston, and we’re very excited to have them on campus this year to join us, and we’re very excited that the McBride Center gets not only to bring in a national speaker every year, but also every year do something to encourage students to get involved nationally with editing and publishing. The idea is that Christians should use their character to influence the culture.”

Several classes from departments across campus are utilizing Robinson’s works in anticipation of her visit, including classes in the honors program and the language and literature department.

“I think we’re really lucky to have the opportunity to hear Marilynne Robinson and to repeat what Dr. McBride told us: ‘Everyone should go to the lecture!’ You don’t have to have read the book before the lecture, but it’s definitely worth reading,” Enix said.

Robinson’s lecture will be Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Gaylord University Center. The lecture is free and open to the public. Robinson will be signing books after the lecture. Copies of Robinson’s books will be available for purchase courtesy of Best of Books in Edmond.

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