“Words to Speak Our Love of Earth: Celebrating Scott Russell Sanders,” the exhibition currently on display in the Slocum Room of the Lilly Library, represents the full breadth of the work of writer Scott Russell Sanders, who retired from the English Department of Indiana University Bloomington last year, after having taught on this campus for 38 years. The exhibition opened the day before Sanders’s 65th birthday.
Sanders’s output at various times during his illustrious career has included science fiction, fiction, biographical fiction, children’s fiction, criticism, poetry, the personal essay, and autobiography. Drawing on the extensive holdings of the Lilly Library, the exhibit features autographed copies of Sanders’s more than twenty books; manuscripts ranging from an 11–year–old’s middle school compositions to the journals Sanders kept while writing Hunting for Hope; and samples from Sanders’s extensive correspondence.
“Words to Speak Our Love of Earth” foregrounds the themes that recur through Sanders’s work: religion and the importance of the sacred in daily life; the connections between literature and science; the knowledge of place; and, above all, the need for a deeper understanding of our relationship with the Earth on which we live. Some of the more unusual items displayed include an essay on Hamlet from Sanders’s college days in Cambridge, England, which shows the roots of Sanders’s later activism (”Hamlet embodies the dramatic purpose of showing the effects on a sensitive and intelligent man of an escapable demand to perform an act to which he is morally, rationally, educationally, humanistically, and temperamentally disinclined”); a teaching guide he wrote for the science fiction movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers; a postcard on marriage from twice–married fellow writer John Updike (”Marriage does a writer a great deal of good”); and, finally, a handmade chapbook of Sanders’s poetry written during a retreat at Knoll Farm in the Mad River Valley of Vermont: “… having seen the pond/ shimmer with sky, having grown still,/ when the time comes this morning for us to break silence, we might find words to speak our love of earth.”
The exhibition was curated by Christoph Irmscher, Professor of English at Indiana University.