Though this is my second semester as Newman Center president, it’s really the first in which I’ve gotten the hang of it. I attempted to plan some events last semester but didn’t have a good conception of what would work. So I began this semester with the relentless intention to have some big event, presumably a speaker.
My planning came to fruition this Thursday, when the Newman Center sponsored a lecturer from Notre Dame. Dr. David O’Connor teaches jointly in the Philosophy and Classics Department and has a special interest in the philosophy of literature. His current “greatest hit” is an online course hosted on OpenCourseWare titled “Ancient Wisdom and Modern Love,” which takes a philosophical approach to love as portrayed in various literature, like Shakespeare, Plato, and Lord of the Rings.
His specific talk at Wabash was about Lord of the Rings, and especially, nostalgia. He highlighted how the characters of Sam and Frodo represented different approaches to nature and magic, especially in relation to the Shire. He focused on the scene where Galadriel meets Sam and Frodo and experiences a vision of herself with the ring. He tied this to Homer’s Odyssey, which illustrates both the dangers and the triumphs of coming home–which is the literal translation of the Greek root of the word, nostalgia. In all, it was a great lecture, and very approachable to an undergraduate audience.
The rest of the visit was awesome as well. He’s very down-to-earth and interacts well with students. He visited my Plato seminar and led a discussion about the Symposium, in which Plato writes speeches for characters to give at a dinner party on the topic of love. Though we began with Plato, we quickly transitioned to romantic love generally, which, as demonstrated by his couse I linked above, is a special interest of his. The way he talked about friendship and marriage and sex was just fantastic; he’s the sort of speaker that you could listen to for hours without getting bored. It was the sort of discussion we don’t often have at Wabash, though our student body’s unified gender provides such a great ground for it.
I did most of the planning myself, from arranging the dates and requesting and securing funding, to providing the housing and cooking the dinner before the lecture. I learned so much about the speaker process, I wish I would have learned these things sooner. For instance, I should have arranged for it to be taped, so I could link it here! But if you want to get a taste of Dr. O’Connor, follow the Open Course Ware link above and watch his tapped lectures.