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Southern Virginia University

Posts with the tag: Academics

  1. Professors Monthly: Scott A. Dransfield

    September 29, 2015


    Professors Monthly is a new monthly column on the official Southern Virginia University blog. Each month’s guest post will be provided by a Southern Virginia professor on a topic of their choice. This month, Dr. Scott A. Dransfield, professor of English and director of university writing, analyzes the text of “The Iliad” as translated by Robert Fagles and in relation to English poetic vernacular.

    Beauty, Terrible Beauty

    Those of you who have taken Classics of Western Literature, which features that great epic, “The Iliad,” by Homer, may have run up against what seems the irrationality of the Trojan War as presented in the poem: 10 years of grueling and violent war, fueled by testosterone-crazed notions of honor, all over the possession of the beautiful woman, Helen. How could one woman possibly be worth the death, destruction, and mayhem, you may ask. Well, the Trojans and Greeks also asked this question, and their conclusion is a bit surprising, though it has everything to do with the imaginative logic of “The Iliad.”

    And catching sight of Helen moving along the ramparts,

    they murmured one to another, gentle, winged words:

    ‘Who on earth could blame them? Ah, no wonder

    the men of Troy and Argives under arms have suffered

    years of agony all for her, for such a woman.

    Beauty, terrible beauty!’

    “Terrible beauty” has always struck me as a striking paradox and, as a very economic phrase, captures the essence of the epic. Perhaps we also see a “terrible beauty” embodied in the notion of kleos: a glory achieved through the ultimate strife of warfare. After all, heroic deeds become the beauty of poetry. But did Homer write these exact words, “terrible beauty”? Let us remember we are reading in translation: Robert Fagles uses this expression in the translation that we read, but, after a bit of investigation of the Greek text, it really doesn’t appear this way in the ancient Greek language.

    Flash forward several millennia and some centuries: It’s now the early twentieth century and Irish nationals are fighting bitterly for their independence from British rule. We don’t see so much organized military operations as much as daring and devoted individuals taking up the cause by leading insurrections. A sensitive and idealistic poet named William Butler Yeats, an Irish nationalist himself (though without the revolutionary fervor), witnesses the great Easter Uprising of 1916, and while he is shocked by the violence, he can’t help but be moved by these heroic efforts. He watches as the rebellion is suppressed; the leaders of the insurrection are all court-martialed and executed, and Yeats’s response is to write one of his best poems, “Easter 1916.” In the poem he celebrates the lives of the revolutionaries and their impact on the whole movement for independence, which, six years later, was successful. But something has happened in the meantime. Even though the Easter rebellion was squashed, there is a palpable transformation: the “casual comedy” of Ireland has been

    All changed, changed utterly:

    A terrible beauty is born.

    And, like “The Iliad,” there is a beautiful woman inspiring, indeed taking part in, these events: Maud Gonne, a revolutionary as violent as the rest of them, some say a terrorist, whom Yeats pined for throughout his life. She was his Helen, and he wrote many poems about this Helen whose beauty was equal to her force.

    1990: Robert Fagles’ translation of “The Iliad” is published to overwhelming acclaim. It has become the preferred translation for “modern Greekless readers,” as one reviewer puts it, and has supplied countless classrooms, like those at Southern Virginia, with a text of the poem that is vibrant and alive. How is it that this translation of the ancient poem succeeds with young, 21st-century readers, for whom the ancient world can seem remote and foreign? It is quite clear that Fagles meets the challenge of translation by drawing upon the cultural resources of his own English poetic vernacular, a language that has developed through succeeding generations of poets who have contributed to a tradition that still nonetheless connects to Homer. If Yeats is an influential figure in this ongoing, developing tradition (and he is), how can we approach Homer untouched by the modern poet’s influence? In other words, how can we envision the “terrible beauty” of Helen without experiencing, even indirectly, something of Yeats’s “Helen”? Fagles clearly sees an opportunity in taking from this vibrant resource and thus quotes a modern poet in the project of translating an ancient one. It is a beautiful collaboration of generations.

    (Post by Dr. Scott A. Dransfield. Based on an essay to be published in a forthcoming issue of “Philological Quarterly.”)

  2. Video: Dr. Kathleen Knight Presents New Scholarship

    September 24, 2015

    Dr. Kathleen Knight, who received an honorary doctorate from Southern Virginia University earlier this year, presented a new scholarship in honor of her parents this month. The V. Pershing and Hattie J. Nelson Disciple Scholar Award is presented to exceptional students. Watch the video to hear Knight’s words and to see this year’s recipients.

    (Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Video by Rex Winslow ’16.)

  3. Convocation 2015: “Festina Lente”

    September 13, 2015

    Convocation is an essential part of welcoming a new academic year. Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to hear from our provost, Dr. Madison U. Sowell, as he spoke about the importance and application of “festina lente,” a Latin phrase meaning “make haste slowly.” It was an enlightening and encouraging reminder for everyone at the beginning of a new and promising year. Following the address, the professors, decked out in their academic regalia, greeted students as they exited the Stoddard Center.

    (Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’15 and Eva Sorensen ’17.)

  4. East Coast Adventures: From Fenway to Author’s Ridge

    August 20, 2015

    Our view of Fenway.

    One nifty thing I’ve loved about attending Southern Virginia is the proximity to so many awesome historic and beautiful locations that seemed so distant to my little Northwestern self when I was a wee lass in Oregon.

    Living on the East Coast has provided me with opportunities to see some of the very far-off places I read about as a kid, and this past summer has been so jam-packed with great East Coast experiences that I couldn’t help reflecting on how grateful I am to be here. I felt that gratitude as I sat on an airplane, heading toward Boston, Mass., one such far-off location that I’d previously only visited in American history textbooks and TV shows.

    Quincy Market, one of the oldest and most bustling areas of Boston.

    I met my mom in Boston for the Fourth of July weekend, and, with the help of a savvy Bostonian (son of Irish immigrants with the coolest accent. He’s the real deal), we basked in all things New England. We stayed at a hotel smack dab in Kenmore Square and neighboring Fenway Stadium, home of the Boston Red Sox (you might have heard of them). We sat just above the dugout during a Red Sox game, ate gelato in the North End, strolled into Tiffany’s and promptly bought nothing, and watched fireworks and listened to the Boston Pops on the 4th from the balcony of a house on Beacon Street. It was the perfect trip.

    But it wasn’t just checking off boxes on the list of Boston sites that made it so extraordinary. Of course, the people we met (so great) and the buildings we saw (extraordinary) and the food we ate (oh man) contributed to the perfection, but there was something more to it. And that something more, I came to realize, was the influence of the liberal arts education I’d been receiving back in Buena Vista.

    Emerson’s house.

    I think the realization really hit when I was sitting at the Red Sox game, having fun but totally lost where the game was concerned (we had to keep asking other people what the score was), and a couple of middle-aged men sat down beside me. Before I knew it, I was having a conversation with one of them about Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” Okay, “conversation” might not be the correct word. We were gabbing. We were talking about Machiavelli like he was a member of One Direction and we were fangirls (which, thankfully for everyone involved, is definitely a simile). Because that’s what Southern Virginia has made me: A fangirl. A fangirl of things literary, historical, theatrical, philosophical. A fangirl of the liberal arts.

    Leaving a writing utensil is a time-honored tradition on Author’s Ridge.

    As the trip continued and we visited Concord, my fangirly heart almost couldn’t take it. We visited the home of Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women” and the first book that ever made me cry. We learned that her father was a pal of greats like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson even supported the Alcotts for years. We saw his house down the road and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s next door (not even kidding), and I took a stroll on the shores of Walden Pond. Finally, I visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and “Author’s Ridge,” where Alcott, Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne are buried.

    And the entire time, I kept thanking my lucky stars that I’d taken that American literature class from Professor Cluff my first semester. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known of my love for Emerson’s essays or been excited to pick up Thoreau’s “October, Or Autumnal Tints” at the bookstore. Nor would I have been so starstruck by Emerson’s study.

    Realizing the way my education has permeated my life made me all the more appreciative for all that Southern Virginia has given me, and all the more excited to find out what another year’s study will do to enrich my little existence. Who knows which literary great I’ll be fangirling next?

    Myself in front of Orchard House, the Alcott’s home.

    (Post and photos by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16.)

  5. Student Travels Abroad to Serve, Represents Scholarship at Memorial

    August 11, 2015

    e-bonney-1There’s no denying that Southern Virginia tries to instill in its students an appreciation for what it really means to be a leader-servant, but that mission’s success isn’t really tested until students and alumni take it upon themselves to embody the leader-servant attitude beyond campus.

    Senior Elizabeth Bonney, a liberal arts and English major and recipient of the Jackson Casey scholarship for the last two years, has attempted to do just that. She represented the recipients of the Jackson Casey scholarship at ThanksUSA’s 4th annual Jackson Casey Memorial Golf Tournament last month, chosen because of her willingness to be a dedicated student as well as an ambitious leader-servant.

    The Jackson Casey Fund was established in memory of Jackson Casey, an eleven-year-old boy whose death — and life — inspired his family to grant scholarships in his name to family members of those in the military.

    “Our mission is to keep the memory and spirit of Jackson Casey alive throughout the community by providing college scholarships for the children of our nation’s soldiers,” the ThanksUSA website says.

    Bonney, whose father is a recently retired Army officer, was surprised and excited by the honor of representing recipients of the scholarship.

    “I felt awesome. I was so excited,” she said.

    e-bonney-3Bonney recently spent a semester in China as part of the International Language Programs teaching English to elementary-aged children. Previous to attending Southern Virginia, she and her 13 siblings moved numerous times — “16, I think” — around the world, from Missouri to Senegal. After one move, she spent more than six months in Tanzania. While there and attending an international school, she served in a local orphanage, teaching young Tanzanian children how to speak English and how to swim, as well as at a school for mentally handicapped children of similar ages.

    “I helped them paint, and we did clay and drawing,” she said. “It was really fun. … We helped them swim, and we also played games with them.”

    Bonney said that her desire to be involved has extended to her experience at Southern Virginia as well, which she discovered when she joined the women’s lacrosse team her first semester.

    “Once you’re at this school, you have so many opportunities to do things,” she said. “This school really does have a lot going on, and once you get out of your comfort zone … you’ll get so much more involved, and your experience will be so much better.”

    After graduating from Southern Virginia next spring, Bonney hopes to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before pursuing her career.

    “I really want to be an international school teacher,” she said. “[And] at the beginning, I want to work with the Peace Corps.”

    In the meantime, she’ll continue to serve, this time as a senior senator for the 2015-2016 academic year.

    The Jackson Casey Memorial Golf Tournament took place on July 13 in Alexandria, Va. to fundraise for future scholarships.

    (Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Bonney ’16.)