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A major exhibition of artist books and a keynote talk on the future of the book are among the highlights of Lafayette’s ninth biennial Roethke Humanities Festival.

On view through Oct. 23 at the Williams Center Gallery isEx Libris:The Arthur and Mata Jaffe Collection: Books as Aesthetic Objects, an exhibition of handmade, limited-edition, and fine press books by artists who make works of art in book form. The books are from Florida Atlantic University’s Wimberly Library, Boca Raton, Fla.

Arthur Jaffe will give an informal gallery talk 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the gallery.

Author and scholar Johanna Drucker will present the festival’s keynote lecture, entitled “Open Ended Possibilities: The Future of the Book in the Digital Age,” 4:10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at Williams Center for the Arts room 108. A reception will follow.

Drucker appears under auspices of the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Visiting Lecturer program. A second Jones Lectureship talk, also in connection with the Roethke Humanities Festival, will be given by noted novelist and editor Dave Eggers on April 17, 2006.

Themed “The Book Re-Visioned: Crossroads of Traditions and Technologies,” this year’s Roethke festival celebrates books and their many interpretations and permutations through exhibitions, readings, workshops, lectures, performances, and special events. A complete schedule can be found by visiting, Quick Links, Performing Arts/Williams Center. The festival is named in honor of poet Theodore Roethke, who taught at Lafayette for four years in the 1930s.

Books in the Ex Libris exhibition were selected by Diane W. Shaw, special collections librarian and College archivist; Curlee Raven Holton, professor and head of art and director of Lafayette’s Experimental Printmaking Institute; and Michiko Okaya, Williams Center Gallery director. The books are idiosyncratic, cutting-edge, highly imaginative, and beautifully crafted. With the exception of two Moby Dick graphic novels published in large, commercial print runs, all of the artist books in the exhibition are produced in small, limited editions. Some are unique and one-of-a kind volumes.

There are altered books; accordion books, such Ken Bolton’s “The Terrific Days of Summer,” which can extend to 33 feet; books made of metal, ceramic, glass, mylar, and fabric; Carol Moores’ “Women of a Certain Age,” in the shape of a fan; cut-out and pop-up books; and books illustrated by stellar artists such as Jim Dine, John Balderssari, and Jasper Johns. One-of-a-kind, handmade books include Mare Blocker’s “Big Cats,” a colorful accordion and pop-up book. The pages in Maureen Cummins’ “Crazy Quilt” open out from a central panel to create a nine-panel quilt. The charming accordion “MUD BOOK” by John Cage has instructions for making mud pies and mud layer cakes. There is a selection of books which present five different artists’ interpretations of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Jim Dine’s “Temple of Flora” includes beautiful drypoint etchings of floral subjects, including one that illustrates a poem by Theodore Roethke, who was Arthur Jaffe’s tennis coach and English teacher at Penn State University in the late 1930s.

The Jaffes’ extensive private collection of artist books included miniature and oversize, new and antique, mass-produced and limited-edition, fine press, and one-of-a-kind works, and books that defy traditional structure completely. Their collection of more than 3,000 books was donated in 1998 to Florida Atlantic University and has more than doubled in size to more than 8,000 titles. Arthur Jaffe serves as curator for the collection and has helped to shape it into one of the finest extant collections of artists’ books. Although it began as a private collection, it is well suited to its current use as a teaching or academic collection because of the broad range of techniques, styles, and genres it encompasses.

Johanna Drucker is Robertson Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, where she is professor in the Department of English and director of media studies. She has published and lectured extensively on topics related to the history of typography, artist books, and visual art. Her scholarly books include Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity, published this year by University of Chicago Press; Figuring the Word (Granary Books, 1998), The Alphabetic Labyrinth (Thames and Hudson, 1995), The Century of Artists’ Books (Granary Books, 1995), The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art (University of Chicago Press, 1994), and Theorizing Modernism (Columbia University Press, 1994).

Drucker also is internationally known as a book artist and experimental, visual poet. Her work has been exhibited and collected in special collections in libraries and museums, including the Getty Center for Humanities, Whitney Museum of American Art, Marvin and Ruth Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry, New York Public Library, Houghton Library at Harvard University, and many others. Recent titles include Narratology (1994), Prove Before Laying (1997), The Word Made Flesh (1989, 1995), The History of the/my Wor(l)d (1990, 1994), and Night Crawlers on the Web (2000). Her works Nova Reperta (JABbooks, 1999) and Emerging Sentience (JABbooks, 2001) were collaborations with Brad Freeman, and for A Girl’s Life, she collaborated with painter Susan Bee (Granary Books, 2002).

The Williams Center Gallery is located in the Williams Center for the Arts, located at Hamilton and High Streets on the main campus of Lafayette. Gallery hours are noon-5 p.m. Monday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday; 2-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, as well as noon-5 p.m. the first Sunday of each month for First Sunday Easton; a half-hour before Williams Center performances; and by appointment. For more information, call (610) 330-5361, email, or visit, Quick Links, Performing Arts/Williams Center.

The Williams Center Galleryis funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

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