Springfield, Ohio – On Nov. 1-2, Wittenberg University had the unique opportunity to co-host the annual International Renaissance Literature Conference with Purdue University, the first time in the program's history it took place away from Purdue's campus.
The conference attracted Renaissance scholars from all over the globe, with academics hailing from universities in Germany, California, Texas, Maryland, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Tennessee, among others. These Renaissance experts gathered to discuss literature and criticism of the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe.
The two-day conference offered a variety of educational sessions, starting with "Anxiety and Accountability," featuring presentations by Christopher Hill of the University of Tennessee at Martin, Michelle Parkinson of the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, and Wittenberg English major Joshua Wisebaker, class of 2008 from Springfield, Ohio.
Wisebaker presented a paper titled "The Divine and Bestial Mind: Shifting Conceptions of Knowledge in Comenius and Milton" at the first panel session on Nov. 1. Wisebaker is the only student in the conference's five-year history to be invited to present a paper of literary merit.
The paper was the result of a yearlong independent study project with Wittenberg Associate Professor of English Ty Buckman. It centered on educational theory and the literature of John Milton.
The second session, titled "Authority and Fiction," featured papers by Irina Iakounina of Yale University, Christopher Casamassima of Towson University, Christine Cloud of The Ohio State University and Neal Migan of Concordia University. That was followed by the main attraction of the conference, the keynote address by Thomas L. Martin of Florida Atlantic University on "C.S. Lewis as Renaissance Critic."
"The highlight of the conference was Professor Martin's keynote address on C. S. Lewis's literary criticism," said Buckman, who was one of the event's organizers. "We had good student turnout for the address and a lively question-and-answer session following, at which several Wittenberg students asked questions. I heard back from students later that they appreciated the chance to observe as well as take part in an academic discussion at that level."
An additional event of the conference was a reception for humanities students on Nov. 1, which served as a networking opportunity for students interested in learning more about graduate schools. Students interacted with various graduate students and faculty from research universities.
In addition to Martin's keynote address, the conference featured an additional paper on C.S. Lewis and commentary by Purdue University's Charles Ross, chair of Purdue's Program in Comparative Literature and a distinguished translator of Renaissance works. Several generations of Ross's former students who have gone on to academic careers were in attendance at the conference, as well as some of his current graduate students. Several Wittenberg students took advantage of an opportunity to have dinner with Ross.
"We send students to excellent graduate programs in the humanities every year, and for a handful of our students to meet informally over dinner with Professor Charles Ross - a significant figure in the field of Renaissance studies and a towering presence at Purdue - was invaluable," Buckman said.
An event titled "Breakfast with Lewis" concluded the conference. It featured a special topics panel with lectures by Mardy Philippian Jr. of Simpson University, Buckman, David Wood of Northern Michigan University and Ross.
The conference called Wittenberg its host as a result of the collaborative efforts of Buckman and Philippian, a Purdue graduate. Their efforts, combined with the generous support of many academic departments, the Faculty Endowment Fund Board and the Office of the Provost, made this academically-enriching event possible.
Written By: Rachel Morgan '08