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Michael Hamburger
Geological Sciences

Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010

IU Distinguished Professor Emeritus Scott Russell Sanders to be honored at campus event

Oct. 18, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Scott Russell Sanders, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, will be honored by friends, colleagues and family members at "Words to Speak Our Love of Earth: Celebrating Scott Russell Sanders," a free, public tribute scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25 in IU's Fine Arts Auditorium.

The tribute is being coordinated with a Lilly Library exhibition of Sanders' work in an exhibition curated by IU Professor of English Christoph Irmscher.

"Professor Scott Russell Sanders is a marvelous writer and is certainly one of the living treasures of our campus and our community," said IU Provost Karen Hanson. "Through his extraordinary body of work, he has made a significant contribution to Indiana's heritage and to the wider world of literature."

IU Professor of Geological Sciences Michael Hamburger, and one of the organizers of the event, said Sanders' writing has helped forge a deeper understanding of the complex and profound relationship of humans to the earth. "In doing so, he has helped provide a path to a more sustainable future," Hamburger said.

Sanders is widely regarded as one of the most important living authors in Indiana today. His body of work includes more than 20 books, including novels, nonfiction and collections of short stories. His writing has been widely recognized, earning him a number of state and national awards, including a Pulitzer Prize nomination for A Private History of Awe, the Indiana Humanities Award in 2006 and the Mark Twain Award from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

Recently, Sanders was selected as the national recipient of the 2010 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, a lifetime achievement honor recognizing the contributions of Indiana authors to the literary landscape in Indiana and across the nation.

Sanders' work extends over a range of creative writing, from short essays to full-length novels, from philosophical works to children's stories.

His writing is grounded in Indiana. In the preface to Writing from the Center, which won the Great Lakes Book Award in 1996, Sanders wrote: "My home territory is southern Indiana, in the watershed of the Ohio River, and so, in writing about where I belong, I focus on the landscape and culture of the Midwest. The skies in my pages are filled with thunderstorms and red-tailed hawks, the creels are bordered by limestone bluffs, the fields are planted in soybeans and corn, the woods are thick with grapevines and hickories."

Sanders started his academic career as a physics student at Brown University, but changed his focus to literature, later obtaining his doctorate from Cambridge University in England. Since arriving at IU in 1971, much of his work has focused on the particular beauty of the hardwood hills of southern Indiana and the connection with the people who live there.

Irmscher said the exhibit represents the full breadth of Sanders's work, which at various times during his illustrious career has included science fiction, fiction, biographical fiction, children's fiction, criticism, poetry, the personal essay and autobiography.

"Drawing upon the extensive holdings of the Lilly Library, it features autographed copies of Sanders's more than 20 books, manuscripts ranging from an 11-year-old Scott Sanders' school compositions to the journals he kept while writing Hunting for Hope; and samples from Sanders's correspondence, including a postcard from John Updike about marriage," Irmscher said. "The exhibit foregrounds the themes that recur through Sanders' work: religion and the importance of the sacred in daily life; the connections between literature and science; and, above all, the need for a deeper understanding of our relationship with the earth on which we live."

Among the works on display at the Lilly Library are:

  • Stone Country, a collaboration with photographer Jeffrey Wolin
  • Wild and Scenic Indiana
  • Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World
  • The Paradise of Bombs, focusing on his growing up on a military base in Ohio
  • Secrets of the Universe: Scenes from the Journey Home

Following the Oct. 25 tribute in the Fine Arts Auditorium will be an informal reception in the Lilly Library, which will include an overview of the Lilly Exhibit by Irmscher. The tribute and exhibit are sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English.