by April Bayer
Dr. Daniel Thurber, professor of English at Concordia, presented a paper exploring the works of Joyce Carol Oates at the 15th International Conference on New Direction in the Humanities at Imperial College in London this summer.
Approximately 3,500 scholars from around the world representing 45 countries attended the conference, which changes location each year. Thurber had previously presented at the conference in Beijing, China, in 2009 and in Budapest, Hungary, in 2013.
Thurber’s paper was entitled “An Exploration of the Fictional and Poetic Worlds of Joyce Carol Oates” and was inspired by his study of the author for a Special Topics course he taught about her work last spring. He has been familiar with Oates’s work since he began studying for his master’s degree in 1969 at the University of Detroit, where Oates was the professor for one of his English courses.
“It was very early in her career, and I would never have guessed that she would go on to become the most prolific living American writer in our time,” Thurber said. “Her literary output is astounding.”
Thurber said that his goal was to draw attention to Oates’s abilities as a writer to examine human relationships and negative aspects of American culture throughout the 50 books and numerous poems and essays she has produced over her long career.
“I see Joyce Carol Oates as a major writer for three reasons,” Thurber said. “She’s a good storyteller, she’s a good chronicler of social forces and their effects on people living in these decades, specifically in American society, and…she ponders the relationship between art and life.”
Thurber then went on to highlight several of Oates’s novels to illustrate how she portrays social issues including Them (1969), which follows the life of a struggling family during the Detroit riots of 1968, and A Book of American Martyrs (2017), which examines the perspectives of various characters on the issue of abortion.
“(Oates) takes up the issue of differing attitudes toward abortion…and how those tear at the fabric of human relationships,” Thurber said. “It shows how powerful and current she is at putting her finger on major issues that are at play in American society.”
Thurber encourages any students who may have questions about academic writing, graduate studies or careers in the Language Arts field to stop by his office, Jesse 227.