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.

Southwest Christian Literary Conference comes to OBU

By Mikaleh Offerman, Editor-In-Chief

Sept. 27-29 the OBU English department welcomed students and professors from across the nation to participate in the 2018 Southwest Conference on Christianity and Literature.

American poet, Vanderbilt Centennial Professor and critic Mark Jarman was the keynote speaker for the weekend.

“This conference is an opportunity for Christian scholars to join in the intellectual activity that has typified the Christian intellectual tradition since the days of the early church and which forms the foundation of the liberal arts education provided by OBU,” OBU professor of literature Dr. Benjamin Myers said.

“It is an opportunity to truly integrate faith and learning as we seek to understand the relationship between literature and theology.”

The conference began Thursday evening with a poetry reading by Jarman, followed by a reception at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum.

“Mark Jarman is a poetry rock star, and it’s pretty cool that he could come to Shawnee,” Senior creative writing major, Kedrick Nettleton said.

Nettleton presented a creative work at the first undergraduate creative writing panel.

More than 80 undergraduate students, graduate students and professors presented topics that explored the ways in which faith and literature come together. OBU students were welcome to attend for free.

“I think the conference was a great experience,” Nettleton said. “OBU really represented itself well — the panels were informative, more engaging than you would think, and they were on a wide range of topics. “Having a chance to share my own work was very rewarding as well.”

Panels included topics such as C.S. Lewis and the Age of Disenchantment, Faith and Identity in Contemporary Literature, creative writing pan-els and undergraduate panels.

Many OBU professors presented writings, including Dr. Jonathan Callis, Dr. Christo-pher Hair, Dr. Donna Young, Dr. Lindsey Panxhi, Dr. Ben-jamin Myers and Newsom.

Other participants included professors and students from Duke University, John Brown University and others from across the nation.

“Academic conferences are one of the primary ways that scholars share ideas and try out concepts they may develop further or even try to publish in a book or journal article,” OBU associate professor of English Dr. Brent Newsom said.

Each session included two or three presenters, who read the entirety of an academic paper.

After the three presentations, the panel opened for questions from those in attendance.

This format is generally universal for literature conferences because it allows for an exchange of ideas, which is what makes conferences like this important to the academic community.

“Such events acknowledge the importance of Christian traditions, texts and ideas in a variety of disciplinary contexts,” Newsom said.

“I hope [that they] show our colleagues within the discipline that thoughtful, important scholarship is being conducted from Christian perspectives, even if Christian voices may be the minority in those disciplines.”

Besides exchanging ideas, the conference opened the door for expanding community in the realm of literature academics.

Newsom said he was excited to renew old connections and for new ones.

“The fruits of an academic conference often come months or years later as a result of these connections and exchanges of ideas,” Newsom said. “For students, faculty and other members of the OBU community, I am excited [that they were able] see first-hand how humanities disciplines like literature explore questions and problems of broad significance, and I hope they [were] enlivened by it.”

OBU has the opportunity to host the Southwest Conference on Christianity and Literature about once every 10 years.

The English Department has several other events this semester, including Half Past 3 every third Thursday at 3:30 p.m in the Upper G.C.

Inklings supports OBU writers

By Morgan Jackson, Assistant Arts Editor

The Inklings at Oklahoma Baptist University are a group of readers and writers committed to discussing and producing creative stories.

“The Inklings, originally, was a group of scholars, writers, and friends in Oxford, England, who gathered to discuss literature and share their own fiction writing,” assistant professor of English and founder of the OBU Inklings Dr. Lindsey Panxhi said. “The most famous members of the Inklings group were J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The Inklings here in Shawnee is named after the original Inklings gathering.”

The literature the group discusses is typically fantasy, science fiction and speculative fiction. Panxhi formed the group in 2016.

“I heard about a lot of English and Creative Writing majors at OBU who enjoyed Tolkien, Lewis and fantasy,” Panxhi said. “I had been part of an Inklings group while completing my doctorate at the University of Arkansas, so I decided to begin a group here in Shawnee as well. There were lots of enthusiastic participants from the first meeting onwards, and we’ve been meeting ever since.”

Current OBU students, recent graduates, and interested faculty are encouraged to attend meetings.

“The group is informal, and not even limited to just OBU students,” Panxhi said.“Several former OBU students who are now alumni living in Oklahoma City and Tulsa actually drive over to join in the meetings. Also, any faculty who share a love for the writings of the Inklings are welcome to join as well. For example, Dr. Jessica Rohr is an active participant in, and co-leader of Inklings.”

At each of the writing-focused meetings, members of the group benefit from the feedback of other writers with similar interests.

“Each participant reads their work aloud at the meeting, and then we discuss their writing: what we like, what needs improvement, and what questions the story raises,” Panxhi said. “For those of us who have hopes of publishing one day, it is immensely helpful to get feedback on our ideas, encouragement over storylines, and accountability to keep writing even in the midst of busy schedules.”

The Inklings also meet monthly to discuss a high fantasy or science fiction novel of the group’s choosing.

“We discuss not only the writer’s prominent literary themes and their skills as a writer and worldbuilder, but also how their ideas relate to Christian faith and practice,” Panxhi said.

The OBU Inklings give warm welcome to new writers and ideas. Some student members feel that the group is very important to their success as writers.

“I used to hate sharing my stories because I’ve always kept them to myself, and had never shared them, but getting feedback and being able to hear other people’s stories made it less daunting,” senior English major and Inkling Chloe Harrison said. “Inklings has been a very big motivator for me. It’s been pushing me to actually write.”

Students say that Inklings have helped spur their creativity, and the group gives them encouragement.

“Sharing my work and getting feedback is extremely important. Inklings is a place where we do just that,” said Josiah Jones, a Creative Writing and Psychology double major. “Bouncing off of other people’s creativity, especially in a shared area of expertise like writing, is also really inspiring and motivating,” said Jones.

OBU’s Inklings uses its focus on writing to glorify God.

“We exist to glorify God through our fellowship, our discussions, and our writing,” Panxhi said. “God is an Author, too, and we take delight in reading, discussing and producing stories that [glorify him].”

Visiting writer seminars next week with Mark Jarman

By Chelsea Weeks, News Editor

Oklahoma Baptist University hosts the fourth annual Visiting Writer Seminars with Mark Jarman next Thursday, September 27th and Friday, September 28th.
Mark Jarman will conduct a poetry reading Thursday, September 27th at 7:00p.m. in the Tulsa Royalties Auditorium in Bailey Business Center.
Jarman is also the keynote speaker for the 2018 Southwest Conference on Christianity & Literature and will be giving the keynote address Friday, September 28th, at 7:15 in GC 219-220.
“We do the Visiting Writers Seminar every year and the conference we happen to be doing this year,” Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature Dr. Benjamin Myers said. “We’re combining them to get the most out of both, but they don’t normally go together.”
The Southwest Conference is an annual event that takes place in a different regional location every year; this year OBU is hosting the Southwest Conference here on Bison Hill. The theme for this year’s conference is “Gathering in the Strange: Literary Vision in a Disenchanted World.”
“The conference is looking at the ways that enchantment, or the idea of there being magical or transcendent, or strange, in our experience and in literature might be important and valuable in a world that has largely eschewed the supernatural in a secular age that sees the world as purely material,” associate professor of English, Dr. Brent Newsom said.
In 2013, Myers and Newsom approached the OBU advancement office with the idea of creating a seminar that invited renown writers to OBU.
They had the first Visiting Writers Seminar in the spring of 2016.
“We try to alternate a poet and a prose writer because within our creative writing major we offer both of those specializations of poetry and fiction,” Newsom said. “Last year we had novelist Gina Ochsne, this year we’re having a poet, Mark Jarman.”
Mark Jarman’s published collections of poetry include ‘Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems,’ ‘Epistles,’ ‘To the Green Man’ and ‘Unholy Sonnets,’ to name a few.
He received the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, the Balcones Poetry Prize for “Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems,” the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for “Questions for Ecclesiastes” and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
“Mark Jarman is a contemporary poet who takes faith very seriously and over the course of his career he’s been a leader in that direction,” Myers said. “In some of his early work, he took on issues of faith in a complicated and artistically sophisticated way. He opened up possibilities for other writers.”
Mark Jarman was a leader in the poetic movement known as New Formalism which brought back traditional techniques within poetry like rhyme and meter.
“It was kind of edgy and exciting when he was first doing this in the 80’s,” Myers said. “To write a sonnet was kind of punk rock. He’s an important figure in the recent history of American poetry.”
Newsom said his poetry often grapples with faith and doubt and believes that the OBU community and all students can relate to.
“One thing poetry does is help us see the everyday in a new light,” Newsom said. “Poets use the imagination to open up the world of our own experience. Students don’t have to be writers themselves, or be familiar with poetry, to find a poetry reading meaningful, and I hope engaging.”
Myers said bringing writers to campus builds intellectual excitement and energy that you can’t receive from watching the authors YouTube video or buying their book.
“We have writers to campus to help our student understand that literature isn’t just a thing that happened a long time ago,” Myers said. “It’s a thing still happening today, and we can have the excitement and pleasure of watching it before our eyes.”
These events are free for all OBU students, staff and faculty. The funds available to make this event happen are raised through donations. The planning process has already begun for the 2019 Visiting Writer Seminars.