Faculty speak at Half-Past Three

By Morgan Jackson, Features Editor

Thursday, March 28, the English Department hosted this month’s Half-Past Three gathering.

Half-Past Three is a time for English major, minors, faculty and anyone interested in the subject to set aside a little bit of time to hear from English department faculty or guest speakers and meet and spend time with those at OBU who have a love for English, reading and writing.

This event provides everyone with the opportunity to discuss with English faculty in a more relaxed setting than the classroom.

Four English faculty members were present at this March’s gathering: Crouch-Mathis professor of Literature and English Dr. Benjamin Myers, assistant professor of English Dr. Lindsey Panxhi, Associate Dean of College of Humanities and Social Sciences Division Chair, Language and Literature and professor of English Dr. Christopher Hair and associate professor of English and Spanish Dr. Charles Swadley.

Held in a room in the upper Geiger Center, this month’s gathering was focused on why students should, at the very least, consider being an English major or minor. Myers led an insightful discussion over the topic.

Myers was formerly the Poet Laureate for the State of Oklahoma. He currently teaches a multitude of English classes at OBU, including Western Civilization and Creative Writing.

During his lecture, Myers gave information about becoming an English major at OBU and defended the major against criticisms it: that it is unreasonable or impractical.

Myers encouraged students to pursue fields and careers that they love, and ones that they will want to do their entire lives.

For many students, English and reading are things that they feel a pull to, but do not pursue as viable career options due to the lack of understanding about the possibility that having an English degree brings.

Often, there is much apprehension surrounding a student pursuing an English degree from a parent.

“What you’re doing in your education is laying a foundation,” Myers said.

He said that having an English degree will open up job possibilities because of the writing, communication and critical thinking skills that a student would learn during the process of obtaining that degree.

It is also important to note that English is a very popular undergraduate degree for those planning to study law in the future.

Other beneficial aspect about Half Past Three is the opportunity to ask questions of the English faculty. They are genuinely interested in what students have to say and want to help find an answer to those questions.

Panxhi elaborated on a question from a student. The question was “Why minor in English?”

Panxhi cited many similar reasons to Myers. She also encouraged students to fulfill their dreams and passions in the literary world.

Panxhi also shared her experience of wanting to do something with reading and writing when she was in high school. She went to John Brown University and pursued English as a career.

Another option for students who love literature and English is to take courses as electives.

This gives students an avenue to explore their love for the subject without having to commit to an English degree.

The faculty presented important information regarding what is required to minor in English.

According to resources posted on okbu.edu, the English minor requires 18 to 19 hours of selected English courses. There are many different course options to choose from to fulfill these requirements.

Overall, it is evident that those present at Half Past Three are passionate about what they do and teach and are excited to share the possibilities of English with students.

At the end of the event, students were encouraged to stay and discuss their thoughts with faculty members, who were happy to discuss student’s academic plans with them.

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 forum celebrates literacy forefathers

By Morgan Smith, Assistant Faith Editor

Many OBU students are familiar with the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but what some students may not know is the two were a part of a literary group known as the Oxford Inklings.

The Oxford Inklings would gather together to share and discuss each other’s writings.

Lewis and Tolkien became not only the groups best-known members, but are remembered for writing science fiction and fantasy stories with Christian themes.

Years after the original Inklings’ meetings, their literary tradition continues with other groups under the same name.

OBU has its own Inklings group, which was started by Dr. Lindsey Panxhi, an assistant professor of English.

Sat., April 14, Dr. Panxhi, along with OBU students and Inklings members Andrew
Wright and Chloe Harrison, will attend a forum hosted by the OKC Inklings society to share and discuss their own work.

The OKC Inklings forum will feature creative work inspired by the writings of the original Inklings as well as scholarly work on fantasy and science fiction works that follow the Inklings tradition.

Wright, Harrison and Panxhi were all selected to share their work with the forum.

Both Wright and Harrison said they first came to know the Inklings work by reading Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia when they were younger and have continued to discover and love more of their work since then.

“Through high school and college especially, I’ve just fallen so much in love with so much that he [Lewis] wrote – not just the beautiful world of Narnia, but his ‘Mere Christianity,’ which I’ve read two or three times,” Wright said.

“It’s an absolutely amazing, foundational text in many ways of what it is to be a Christian, and his other stuff, like the Space Trilogy, is just mind-bendingly good.”

Wright, a senior creative writing major and theater minor, said he will present an excerpt from a fantasy novel he is writing.

“Still mourning the disappearance of her sister, a young college student finds herself tumbling into a beautiful and terrifying world of magic,” Wright said. “I am reading chapter one and most of chapter three.”

Harrison, a junior English major with a minor in professional editing, said she will present a scholarly paper she wrote for one of her classes, titled “Inescapable Suffering, the Dangers of the Other World in Sir Orfeo.”

“Basically, I’m looking at why is there still suffering in magical worlds, and what can we gain from that,” she said. “The reason I’m presenting it at the Inklings forum is because one of the articles I use is ‘On Fairy Writing,’ by Tolkien himself.”

The forum will also feature keynote speaker Joyce Coleman and visiting professors such as John Granger, a scholar who focuses on Harry Potter as a literary text.

Wright and Harrison said one of the reasons the Inklings are still emulated is because of their contributions to both science fiction and fantasy literature, as well as apologetic writing.

“In the world of speculative to fantasy, more than anyone else, they built it as a genre,” Wright said.

“Like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, any other writer that does a fantasy where they’re in their own world with their own kingdom and whatnot, it’s inescapable; it’s not just the influence that’s far reaching, it’s the foundation on which everything else is built.”

Harrison said the Inklings not only created the modern fantasy genre, but defended it as a literary form.

“On top of that, they’re just really good stories,” she said. “Everybody loves reading Lewis and Tolkien.”

Lewis’ and Tolkien’s work is also still beloved in the Christian community, and Lewis is just as well known for his apologetic writings as his fantasy and science fiction writings.

“Lewis is a huge part of modern apologetics,” Wright said. “When Dr. Travers, then
Dr. Panxhi afterwards, taught the C.S. Lewis class a year ago, half the class was people coming over from the theology department because of how respected Lewis is in that field even though he wrote stories of magic.”

Harrison said she thinks it was the way the Inklings chose to approach Christianity in their writings that made them so beloved.

“It’s not obvious, though sometimes it is in Narnia, but I think it’s how they aren’t just writing to try to tell a moral tale,” she said.

“They’re trying to create rich worlds and stories that people will come to again and again.”

Wright said that despite the lack of overtness in their writing, readers can still catch the message in Lewis’ and Tolkien’s writing.

“You can feel the truth through the worlds they built,” he said. “We tell our truth, and the world sees Christ through that.”