Nov 17, 2009

A Torrent of Words: first in English lecture series

by Emily DeFosse

The Department of English and Modern Languages is raising the academic bar at Liberty University by starting a new series of lectures from high profile speakers to help educate students, faculty and the community.

The series kicks off Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in DeMoss 1090 with Elizabeth Lynch, a Christian scholar from the University of Virginia (UVA). Lynch, who is currently working on a biography of Susanna Wesley, will speak on the Wesleys and the culture of the book in a lecture entitled “A Torrent of Words.”

“(Lynch) is going to talk about how the rise of print culture and books, specifically in the early eighteenth century impacted the Wesleys and in turn impacted the modern era,” Department Chair, Dr. Karen Prior said. “I’m sure most people do know that John and Charles Wesley are important in church history. They are the founders of Methodism, and a lot of people don’t realize that Methodism is actually the foundation of modern evangelicalism. So we’re talking about our own history as evangelicals.”

Prior came up with the idea for the alumni lecture series after being inspired by alumnus Drew Cleary who graduated in December of 2007 with a B.A. in English.

“When I hear about (Liberty), and even while I was there, I heard about the biblical studies department and all the donations it was receiving, or about the contributions to the field it was making, or about how the law school had outranked Harvard,” Cleary said. “But then I thought about the English department. I never heard about it, nor did I hear about it receiving donations. I thought that Liberty, as the beacon of Christian thought … needs Christian thinkers in the field of literature as well.”

Cleary contacted Prior and asked her what money would be used for if it were donated to the department.

The university is currently funding the series, according to Prior, but she hopes alumni, such as Cleary, will eventually fund it, which is why the series is being called the Alumni Lecture Series.

“The English Department has held a couple of successful, very well-attended lectures in the past two years, but we’ve never had designated funding for a lecture series,” Prior said.

Among past successful lectures held were Michael Ward’s lecture on his book “Planet Narnia” and John Rankin’s lecture on “New Atheism.” Both lectures were delivered to standing-room-only crowds, according to Prior.

The Nov. 19 lecture will discuss the Wesleys and the culture of the book, which extends into all disciplines and will help Liberty grow in a new area.

“We certainly have a number of fantastic political and religious leaders speak in convocation, but straightforward academic lecture is an area that we need to grow in,” Prior said. “It’s an area that is really part of the academic experience in most universities, and I am pleased to be able to help Liberty grow in this.

Prior hopes to see not only English students and faculty come out to the lecture, but community members and students and faculty from other departments.

“Even though this lecture is sponsored by the English department, it is going to cover the areas of English and history and church history and even education, because Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley was a homeschooler,” Prior said. “So I hope that we will see a good representation of students and faculty from across the disciplines.”

Cleary hopes the lecture series will promote large-scale change from Liberty.

“I want to see great thinkers come out of Liberty. I want to see the next great American novel come from a Liberty alumnus. Most of all, I want to see Christianity contribute to the English field, whatever that entails,” Cleary said.

Contact Emily DeFosse at  

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