This year signifies the 17th Annual Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Lecture Series. Annually, a significant work of literature is chosen as the single text celebrated and studied as part of the Birss Memorial Lecture Series at Roger Williams University. This year’s featured work is Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
Roger Williams University has previously honored works such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Fahrenheit 451,” and “Catch 22” during this lecture series where the chosen work and materials relating to it are100 exhibited in the University Library. The current exhibit, which opened February 1, 2017, is open daily until March 31 and can be found directly behind the MediaTech and circulation desks.
Márquez was a Colombian novelist and short-story writer who also wrote as a screenwriter and journalist. He was born in 1927 in Colombia and lived until April 2014. He is most known for his novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967), for which he was awarded the 1972 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the Nobel Prize in Literature for in 1982. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is considered to be one of the most important works in Spanish literature.
The RWU exhibit on Márquez and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” commemorates the 50th anniversary of the publication of this influential work. The items on display have been provided thanks to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin and Redwood Library of Newport. The exhibit includes numerous photographs of Márquez and his family, various manuscripts and editions of his works, correspondences between Márquez and publishers, magazines, and major public figures—such as President Clinton. There are photographs of Márquez accepting his Nobel Prize, a preliminary draft of his acceptance speech with annotations, and a translation of his speech delivered at his acceptance.
In addition to the fascinating and detailed exhibit, the Birss Memorial Lecture Series also named two Birss Fellows, Alexandra Gowrie, RWU Class of 2017, and Emily Stoeppel, RWU Class of 2019, who played a major role in selecting materials for the RWU exhibit. Last fall, Gowrie and Stoeppel traveled to Austin, Texas along with Christine Fagan, RWU’s Collection Management Librarian, to the Harry Ransom Center to peruse numerous archive items and decide what to display at RWU. Gowrie and Stoeppel are also a part of the Birss Lecture Series class taught by Professor Braver, where they discuss “One Hundred Years of Solitude” with other peers.
“I think that it is really amazing that the exhibit is here because not only does it represent a lot of hard work, but it also represents the interconnectedness of our world,” Stoeppel said. “Gabriel García Márquez is a Latin American author and 50 years after [“One Hundred Years of Solitude”] was published we are honoring his book here in the United States. I feel that this speaks to the way that information is exchanged throughout the world and the unity that literature is able to create.”
Gowrie expressed her desire for students to check out the exhibit.
“There are artifacts in those cases in our library that embody Gabo’s heart and soul and they are not to be taken for granted,” Gowrie explained. “I think the exhibit is beneficial to Roger Williams students because it allows them to immerse themselves in research about his life and culture that the text cannot do.”
Stoeppel believes that those who spend time looking at the exhibit and thinking about it will find some appreciation of Márquez and his contribution to literature.
Gowrie’s favorite part of the exhibit are all the photographs of Márquez and his family because of the generosity the family to share such private and personal history so that Márquez’s story can continue on. Stoeppel’s favorite part are the pages of original manuscript which depict a bit of the writing process.
There is also a small collection of materials relating to Márquez and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” that may be checked out of the University Library located next to the exhibit if you would like to learn more about either subject.
Take the opportunity that RWU has provided to learn about Márquez and his accomplishments while you can! Also, keep an eye out for future Birss Lecture Series classes and exhibits!