JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 16, 2002 – More than 40 Union University faculty members and their spouses gathered together for a dinner and intellectual conversation recently on a Tuesday evening on campus.
The “Enkuklios Paideia” or “Circle of Learning,” was initiated earlier this semester in a dinner with a presentation led by James Huggins, chair of the biology department. According to Union University President David S. Dockery, the success of the first one led to the calling for the second one, with hopes of additional gatherings as the year goes along.
“I am looking forward to this becoming a staple in coming years,” Dockery said at the beginning of the evening. “It is my hope that we learn from each other through these meetings.”
Each meeting consists of a conversation format, where one faculty member presents a paper dealing with the years broad theme of “Issues in the 17th Century,” which is followed by two responses from faculty colleagues in other disciplines. After the three essays have been presented, the floor is open for all present to participate in asking questions or sharing their own thoughts.
Jean Marie Walls, chair of the language department, was the initial speaker at Tuesday night’s meeting and her topic was “Narrating Self and Other.” During her presentation, she spoke on the topics of narrative, literature and philosophy. She also spoke on how literature reflected the culture, society, and current authority.
“Narrative was influenced by how reality was produced, represented and by who had the power to arbitrate it,” Walls said. “In 17th century France, the censorship of plays and literature by kings like Louis XIV showed the social tensions about national power.”
Despite being censored, literature still managed to “record the human experience…which can be used to gain knowledge about life.”
Respondents were free to expand on or argue anything the speaker brought up.
Gene Fant, chair of the English department, made the first response to Walls’ presentation. He expanded on her comments about the move from objectivity to subjectivity of literature. He also cited how free will became prevalent in late 17th century Europe.
“Free will entitled people to tell their own stories through poetry and literature,” Fant said.
Naomi Larsen, chair of the sociology department, took on the sociological questions of the issues. She said that narratives define society and situations, and social movements define people.
“How we define ourselves is a result of what goes on in different sociological groups,” Larsen said.
After Larsen was finished, the floor was open to anyone in attendance who had a question or comment. Randall Bush, professor of Christian studies and philosophy, along with Huggins; Walton Padelford, professor of economics; Hal Poe, Charles Colson Chair of Faith and Culture and others, all contributed thoughts and ideas to the discussion.
Another dinner is currently being planned for the spring.
By Tracie Holden, Class of 2004
Sara B. Horn,