Faculty members from eight states participated in Grambling State University’s National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on World Literature. The program began on Monday, May 21 and will end Friday, June 15.
The NEH Institute was lead by eight nationally recognized senior scholars: Patrice Rankine, Purdue; James Redfield, University of Chicago; Christopher Kleinhenz, University of Wisconsin at Madison; Steven Botterill, University of California at Berkley; Jane Chance, Rice University; Nadia Margolis, Mount Holyoke; Kim F. Hall, Barnard College and Columbia University; and Joyce MacDonald, University of Kentucky at Lexington.
The scholars lectured on Homer (Rankine and Redfield), Dante (Kleinhenz and Botterill), Christine de Pisan (Chance and Margolis), and Shakespeare (Hall and MacDonald).
The NEH Institute was coordinated by three Grambling professors: Hugh Wilson, Chimegsaikhan Banzar, and Jim Kim. They were awarded a $75,000 grant. `
According to them, the purpose of the program is to enhance the comprehension, appreciation, and teaching of world literature at Grambling and other historically black colleges and universities.
Although the target population was faculty at HBCU’s, scholars from neighboring institutions where invited to participate. “We selected scholars who taught or plan to teach world literature. We gave preference to scholars from HBCU’s, but we did not exclude interested scholars from neighboring institutions when there were not enough applicants from HBCU’s,” Wilson said.
“The very process of applying for this grant took several weeks of intensive work. Now, at this organizational stage, I have been occupied with miscellaneous paperwork and logistics related to travel, lodging, food, transportation, stipends, and honoraria for senior scholars and participants.”
“We want to expose our faculty to literature and scholars from elite institutions,” said Wilson, chair of the English department. “We selected prominent scholars with reputations as good teachers.”
Kim, a professor of humanities, said that the summer institute was geared towards “helping teachers at HBCU’s to improve in literature.”
Local community members were afforded the opportunity to listen to the scholars and interact with them at the Lincoln Parish Library in Ruston. “We decided to have the lectures at the library to include the community and open it up to great speakers. We chose the library because it is a central location and accessible,” said Wilson.
Others participants included Pamela Payne, Melanie C. Thomas, Laura Britton, Nils Borquist, and Bradley Bankston, GSU; Dolliann Hurtig, Louisiana Tech; Matthew Teutsch, University of Louisiana at Monroe; Steven Shelburne, Centenary College of Louisiana; Lawrence Sledge, Jackson State University; Michael Zeitler, Texas Southern University; Lela Gooding and Rehana Whatley, Oakwood College; Edmund Nah Kloh, Langston University; Melissa Hull, Tennessee State University; Dan Lackey, Morris College; and Barbara Ross, North Carolina A &T State University.
Banzar, an assistant professor of French, said, “This institute undoubtedly motivated the participating faculty to explore in depth the masterpieces of world literature and engage in scholarly discussions. It has nourished their intellectual curiosity by helping them to discover new ideas, concepts, and approaches in reading and teaching world literature.”
The participants also found the institute helpful, enriching, and enlightening. Wilson said, “Participants seem to have enjoyed most of the sessions. They testified to their learning experience.”
Borquist said that he gained a greater understanding of the works presented by the authors and that he hopes to be able to use much of what he learned in his composition and world literature classes. “I would like to be prepared to answer most of the questions that arrive from my students’ viewpoints and arguments, and this summer institute has helped in this way.”
“I have gained a wealth of knowledge. All of the literature we studied and discussed tended to have a common thread. This information will help me to show a connection in the literature,” said Payne.
Zeitler said that what he has gained from the program are ways to tie classical literature to Christian literature and Renaissance humanism. “The patterns and contexts of these texts were greatly expanded. I have a new understanding of women writers that I will incorporate into my classes,” he said.
“I would recommend this program to others because of the very collegial group of scholars that made for productive discussions,” said Zeitler.
Like Zeitler, Ross said that she would recommend the program to others. “Everyone should have the opportunity to engage in conversation with scholars and researchers of other viewpoints,” she said.
“Kudos to Dr. Wilson, Dr. Kim, and Dr. Banzar. They did an excellent job in making our stay comfortable and intellectually (totally) stimulating,” said Whatley.