Since 2018, the Department of English and Philosophy has sponsored an annual week-long, interdisciplinary celebration of literature. Literature Weeks combine engaging scholarship and exciting activities that have surprised, delighted, and educated participants.
Literature Lives events celebrate literature, capture the imagination, and develop connections not only for current Southern students, faculty and staff across campus and among disciplines, but also with high school students, alumni and friends from across the four-states region.
The inaugural event was Frankenstein Week, marking the worldwide celebration in 2018 of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s iconic novel. Attendance at the week’s activities totaled more than 330, including MSSU and area high school students, faculty and staff members, and community members. Highlights of the week included keynote speaker Dr. Elisa Beshero-Bondar (University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg) talking about the Bicentennial Digital Frankenstein project; a faculty panel on science, ethics, and Frankenstein with professors Alla Barry, Barry Brown (Philosophy), Donna Johnson (Biology), and Vickie Roettger (Biology); a Frankenstein film fest, and a talk on theology in Frankenstein; and a gala reception with readings by our Scary Story Writing Contest winners.
In 2019, Robinson Crusoe Week was planned to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s famous early experiment in the novel genre. We interacted with hundreds of people across campus and beyond with events ranging from our faculty panel on Robinson Crusoe in Context with Professors Jonathan Adongo (Business), John Davenport (Geography), Jill Greer (Anthropology), and Jason Willand (Biology) to goat petting on the Oval; from earthenware pottery making and firing with the Southern Clay Club and Professor Frank Pishkur to our keynote speaker Dr. Shirley Tung from Kansas State University, from our film double header held at Bookhouse Cinema to our gala celebrating our writing contest winners held in the North End Zone Facility, and more.
In 2020, Harry Potter Week turns attention to a much more recent literary phenomenon, but one that is no less important. The first book in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone appeared in 1997, four years before traditional-aged college students in the class of 2023 were born. This means that many of our students have never lived in a world without Harry Potter. Whether they—or you—have read any of the Harry Potter books or seen any of the movies, the words “Harry Potter” are almost universally familiar, something that can be said of very few books. Across the nation and around the world, teachers have used Harry Potter to teach literacy; professors have created courses focused on the series; and academic conferences have investigated countless literary and cultural topics in relation to Rowling’s work. MSSU’s Literature Week 2020: Harry Potter joins that ongoing discussion with a full slate of scholarly and entertaining talks and activities, including keynote speaker Dr. Christopher Bell (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs); a faculty panel featuring Professors Megan Bever (History), William Fischer (History) and Nicole Shoaf (Political Science); an owl demonstration; film screening at Bookhouse Cinema; theater festival; and more.
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