By Kathleen Lamanna
Baylor University in Waco, Texas, hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson on September 11 as part of the Roy B. Albaugh Lecture Series.
The Roy B. Albaugh Lecture Series was endowed in the 1970s by Oma Buchanan Albaugh in memory of her late husband, Roy B. Albaugh, a notable civic leader in Waco from 1920 till his death in 1964. The series aims to bring distinguished scholars to Baylor and the community of Waco. Notable past lecturers for the Roy B. Albaugh Lecture Series include philosopher Charles Taylor, law scholar Mary Anne Glendon, and poet laureate Richard Wilbur. William P. Weaver, associate professor of Literature at Baylor University, noted that the lecture series aims to “showcase someone who has national recognition and exemplifies the ideals and aims of Phi Beta Kappa in the pursuit of the liberal arts.”
Robinson is the author of four works of nonfiction, as well as four full length works of fiction. She is the recipient several notable awards and honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005 and the National Humanities Medal for “grace and intelligence in writing” in 2012. Robinson was an undergraduate at Pembrooke College, later receiving her Doctor of Philosophy in English at the University of Washington.
Robinson’s extensive creative work is heavily influenced by her faith; Robinson is an active Congregationalist, known to be very interested in the ideas and teachings of John Calvin. Because of Robinson’s mix of intellect, education, honor, and faith, she made a perfect fit for Baylor, a notable Christian university. The lecture that Robinson delivered at Baylor was entitled “Reconceiving Realism: The Case for a Deeper Attention.”
Though the lecture series is not limited to speakers of faith, Weaver noted that the committee “does try to choose people who transcend areas of specialization to discuss larger issues across disciplines.” According to Weaver, Robinson is “courageous in owning her Christian identity. She appealed to us for her courage and wit and intelligence. It was a rare event. She was excellent in that way.”
The lecture, hosted in Baylor’s Bennett Auditorium, a 320-seat lecture hall, was filled nearly to capacity the day of the lecture. The University advertised the event to community members, students, and members of the faculty and staff of Baylor University. “She drew a diverse audience,” said Weaver. “It’s been a good opportunity to draw attendance from the community.”
Robinson’s visit to the Baylor campus was held as a partnership between the Zeta of Texas Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and the university’s English department. In addition to the lecture for the Albaugh series, Robinson gave a reading from her upcoming novel, sponsored by the English department. The two events were held in conjunction with one another, resulting in a large turnout of University students and staff from multiple disciplines, as well as many community members.
Kathleen Lamanna is a senior at Wells College majoring in English with a focus in creative writing and a minor in history. Wells College is home to the Xi of New York Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.