Springfield, Ohio — Thanks to a grant from Nextbook and the American Library Association (ALA), and partnerships with public libraries and Jewish congregations in two counties, Wittenberg University Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor Ken Irwin has organized a reading and discussion series called "Modern Marvels: Jewish Adventures in the Graphic Novel."
The grant is part of a program called "Let's Talk About It: Jewish Literature," a scholar-led reading and discussion program created in 1982 jointly by Nextbook and the ALA. "Let's Talk About It" explores Jewish literature and culture and is organized around themes that engage and stimulate audiences.
Fittingly, the Wittenberg reading and discussion series focuses on the Jewish influence in the history of the graphic novel. According to Associate Professor of Communication Matthew J. Smith, Jewish storytellers have created some of the world's most recognizable comic book superheroes, including Superman, Batman and the Incredible Hulk.
Smith will lead five discussion sessions in Wittenberg's Hollenbeck Hall, Room 131. Each will take place from 7-9 p.m. on a Tuesday:
Sept. 9 – A Contract With God: And Other Testament Stories by Will Eisner
Sept. 23 – The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman
Oct. 7 – Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: Stories by Ben Katchor
Oct. 28 – The Quitter by Harvey Pekar
Nov. 11 – The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar
"We saw this as an opportunity to get people on and off campus talking about something exciting," Irwin said. "Having someone on campus who is an expert in the field to lead the discussions brought this all together."
Smith describes the graphic novel as an emerging art form that many people would enjoy if exposed to it and given a forum to discuss it. The first session figures to serve as an excellent introduction into the graphic novel as Eisner is hailed as one of the art form's innovators, so well esteemed that the comics' industries annual awards program is named in his honor. Smith said that A Contract With God popularized the graphic novel and helped pave the way for the other works in the Wittenberg reading and discussion series.
"I hope this is an opportunity to people to enjoy the books and gain an introduction into the graphic novel," Smith said.
The $2,500 grant paid for copies of the books, which will be distributed to the participants. Books will also be available to check out from the Clark County Public Library and the Greene County Public Library.
Participation is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Space is limited, so those interested are encouraged to register as soon as possible with Irwin at (937) 327-7594 or via e-mail.
Written By: Ryan Maurer