Literature community meets to learn

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

Walk into room 212 in the Upper GC on any given third Thursday of the month and one might find that there is a professor donning a tweed jacket presenting highly-specialized research or reciting a bit of poetry.

This is Half Past Three, a monthly gathering for students majoring, minoring or simply interested in English and its related disciplines.

“We get together and have refreshments, snacks and socialize,” Crouch-Mathis professor of literature and professor of English Dr. Benjamin Myers said, “and then usually there’s a speaker on some aspect of literary life or English education. Basically, it’s community time for anyone affiliated with the English department.”

Half Past Three unofficially began five or six years ago, Myers said, as time for those in the English department to get together and enjoy one another’s company, maybe play some board games.

From there, the meetings progressed to snack time and mingling in the English hallway of Owens Hall.

“That was good, but, you know, it was sort of people would come in, have a snack, joke around for a while and leave,” Myers said, “and it wasn’t really helping anyone’s sense of what it means to study literature from an outside-the-classroom point of view – understanding that we’re not just English majors when we’re in our English classes, but we’re people of letters, literary people.”

Half Past Three was formalized after this as a way to actualize the desire to have intellectually stimulating, but also outside-the-class-room not-for-a-grade, fellowship among those in the English department.

This was accomplished primarily through the inclusion of guest speakers at every meeting.

“There’s still standing around with cookies and coffee and chatting,” Myers said, “but now there’s also time to think together without getting a grade for it.”

Guest speakers are often OBU professors presenting their personal research.

However, speakers outside of OBU, as well as students, are also given the stage at times.

This semester’s schedule included OBU’s own assistant professor of English Dr. Alan Noble as the first presenter.

He read a portion of his recently released book “Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age” to Half Past Three last Thursday, Sept. 20.

Upcoming speakers include assistant headmaster of The Academy of Classical Christian Studies Casey Shutt Oct. 25 and OBU assistant professor of English Dr. Lindsey Panxhi Nov. 25.

Student presentations won’t occur until the spring semester most likely. Senior English major Chloe Harrison was one of the students to present last spring.

She read from her paper “Inescapable Suffering: The Dangerous Otherworld in Sir Orfeo,” which explored the topic of suffering even in paradise settings.

“I liked it because, instead of just writing a paper in your class and the only person who sees it is that one professor who assigned it… [you get] to present it and have everyone ask you questions,” Harrison said. “It tends to make you think more fully about what you researched and maybe if you want to pursue that further down the line.”

Though a senior, Harrison didn’t start regularly attending Half Past Three until her junior year, when, she said, it was better advertised.

One benefit of attending for Harrison has been the very camaraderie which Myers hoped to establish when he first began the un-official hallway snack times.

In regard to presentations, Harrison said Panxhi’s presentation regarding making decisions about master’s work was not only enjoyable, but also helpful in a practical sense.

“Even though I’ve decided that I’m not going to grad school, it helped me work through that,” Harrison said.

Noble’s book presentation was a highlight for sophomore English major Jonathan Wood.

However, even more than Noble’s presentation, he enjoyed one of the more informal meetings which took place around finals week last year.

“They had a poetry day, and you could come up and read poetry,” Wood said. “Dr. Myers read some things – pretty much all the faculty presented. “I read “Leda and the Swan” by William Butler Yeats and that was really entertaining. It was just a good time to remember why we enjoy poetry.”

Half Past Three’s next meeting is set for Oct. 25 in room 212 of the Upper GC.

Though English and literature focused, the meeting is not exclusive to English or related majors.

Any students desiring to commune with other lovers of literature are welcome Myers said.

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