Dordt College News

James Schaap presents his “final hurrah” at Dordt College

February 9, 2012

Dr. James C. Schaap has been part of Dordt College since 1976, serving as professor of English, writer, and mentor to many students. And on Sunday, February 19, he will share his final reading before retirement at the end of the academic year. The reading, titled “Stories from Up the Hill,” begins at 8 p.m. in classroom SB101 in the Science and Technology Center on the campus of Dordt College.

Schaap himself jokingly deems this his “final hurrah” with Dordt College. To hear Schaap tell it, the stories he will share during the reading are what he’s been working on in the last year or so. Though the genre is somewhat out of character for Schaap, the source of inspiration is found in as early as his own days as a college student, when he first discovered the work of author Frederick Manfred. In fact, his freshmen term paper was even written on a book of Manfred’s.

“I was deeply influenced by him as a student,” said Schaap. “So much of my character, especially as a writer, is created in some ways by Frederick Manfred.”  So about five years ago when Schaap stood in front of the grave of one of Manfred’s characters, he was immediately fascinated once again.

“The idea for the first story in this series started when I bumped into the grave of a woman in the Doon cemetery,” said Schaap. “I had this odd feeling that, because of Manfred’s book of fiction, I knew her.”

Schaap’s interest and curiosity was ignited, and it led to the first of several short stories revolving around the “lives” of the dead. Though typically a realist writer, Schaap found himself writing in the increasingly popular genre of magic realism, as he began creating stories of the dead (who remain unseen by the living), or “redeemed zombies” as he playfully refers to them.

The fascination with what happens to redeemed Christians after death is part of what inspired the book’s premise. “I got to thinking about what a cemetery would be like if, in fact, they were habitations of the dead, in a timeless world, awaiting the new heavens and the new earth.” 

“Stories from Up the Hill” examines in both humorous and serious ways the time between death and resurrection – the “somewhere in between.” 

“We are, the Bible says, surrounded by clouds of witnesses,” he said. “‘Who are they? What do they see?’”—those are the kinds of questions that trigger my imagination.” 

James Calvin Schaap is the author of 23 books and several short stories. His work has received awards from Christianity Today, Best Christian Writing, Evangelical Press Association, Associated Church Press, as well as the Christy Award.

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