Renowned Classics Scholar to Visit Baylor Through Phi Beta Kappa Scholar Program

Nov. 8, 2011

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Baylor University students and faculty will have a chance to "learn from the pagans" at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, in the Armstrong Browning Library Foyer of Meditation when visiting scholar James O'Donnell, Ph.D., professor of classics and provost at Georgetown University, presents, "The Death of the Gods: What We Can Learn from the Pagans."

O'Donnell's visit is part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar program, which allows renowned experts to share their knowledge and experiences with others in the field. Phi Beta Kappa is a national honor society which, according to its mission statement, "celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences."

Dan Hanchey, assistant professor of classics and an event organizer, said Baylor's Phi Beta Kappa chapter applied for a visiting professor earlier this year, and after considering several scholars, chose O'Donnell to visit because of his varied expertise.

"Dr. O'Donnell was particularly appealing as a visiting scholar because of the broad relevance of his areas of interest," Hanchey said. "His work on Augustine is of value to students of theology, philosophy, history and literature. Professor O'Donnell has also spent some time in considering the role of technology in academics, an unusual course of study for someone so deeply invested in the study of the world of late antiquity."

O'Donnell will visit Baylor for two days and will have lunch with undergraduate Classics students, tour campus with Phi Beta Kappa students, present "The Death of the Gods: What We Can Learn from the Pagans," lunch with Honors College and Philosophy students, teach a Great Texts course and lead a Seminar for Excellence in Teaching through the Academy for Teaching and Learning.

Hanchey expects O'Donnell's lecture, which is free and open to the public, to be a "great cultural arts opportunity for Baylor and Waco."

"Many people are unfamiliar with the religious context into which Christ was born," Hanchey said. "The religions of the Greeks and Romans often tend to be reduced to and dismissed as ignorant and naive fairy tales. But such assumptions run the risk of both selling short the piety and intellectualism of the ancients and downplaying the novelty and revolutionary quality of Christianity. So much of our own culture has been informed by the cultures of the ancient world, but it can be dangerous, or at least disingenuous, to divorce many of those influences from the religious contexts in which they developed. Professor O'Donnell's lecture will aim to provide some of that context in a way that is both practical and accessible."

For more information, visit the The Classic Department or call (254) 710-1399.

by Carmen Galvan, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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