May 14, 2019
In Wyoming Catholic College's humanities track, the last author our seniors read before graduation is poet T. S. Eliot.
While Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales extolled the loveliness of April when spring fills the earth with beauty and with great joy “people long to go on pilgrimages,” T. S. Eliot called April in our modern, secular age, “the cruelest month.” In his poem "The Waste Land," Eliot described the crowds of commuters with their backs turned to the glad pilgrim road to Canterbury as they slog into London for another work day.
Dr. Glenn Arbery, in addition to being our college president, has been teaching senior humanities. He is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.
December 25, 2018
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Those first lines from Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” may be the most recognized line of Christmas poetry in America—or perhaps the most recognized line of any kind of poetry in America. Yet Christmas, Christ’s nativity has been the subject of many, many great poems.
As a Christmas gift to you our listeners, this Christmas podcast will focus on great Christmas poems—recited, not discussed by Wyoming Catholic College faculty. Enjoy.
October 30, 2018
"Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven / far journeys, after he sacked Troy's sacred citadel."
Those lines open Homer's epic poem The Odyssey. The story, they tell us, is about Odysseus, a great hero of the Trojan War. It's about his journeys and trials. Bracing stuff and we can't wait to get started. But Homer doesn't start. Not yet.
Instead after the exciting preview, the first four books of The Odyssey are not about the heroic Odysseus, but about his son, Telemachus who Dr. Jason Baxter describes as "adolescent, wimpy, insecure." That is, he's the polar opposite of his famous dad.
Yet it was to Telemachus that Dr. Baxter pointed to encourage our students here at Wyoming Catholic College. Dr. Baxter is our guest this week.
October 9, 2018
“When the gods created Gilgamesh,” the ancient text says, “they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun [god] endowed him with beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man.”
Every year freshmen at Wyoming Catholic College struggle to find their bearings in the midst of The Epic of Gilgamesh. The epic was composed in Babylon in the mid- to late-second millennium BC. It was something of a founding myth for the Babylonian kings and the parallels between Gilgamesh and the Bible and Gilgamesh and Homer are, to say the least, intriguing.
Professor Kyle Washut has just finished teaching The Epic of Gilgamesh and is anxiously awaiting student papers reflecting on the tale. Prof. Washut is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.
September 4, 2018
I see nothing quite conclusive in the art of temporal government,
But violence, duplicity and frequent malversation.
King rules or barons rule:
The strong man strongly and the weak man by caprice.
They have but one law, to seize the power and keep it.
And the steadfast can manipulate the greed and lust of others.
The feeble is devoured by his own.
Those words are from T. S. Eliot’s play “Murder in the Cathedral,” the story of tSt. Thomas Becket's martyrdom. Becket was King Henry II pal who he appointed Chancellor and then Archbishop of Canterbury. As Chancellor, Becket was Henry’s man to do the king’s will. But when he became Archbishop, something changed. He realized that he now needed to be God’s man, a decision that—given the outcomes—enraged Henry.
Prof. Kyle Washut discussed Eliot, Thomas, and what he called “Perfected Courage” at the 2018 Wyoming School of Catholic Thought. Prof. Washut is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.
August 21, 2018
His dad was king of England… or at least sort of. That being the case, how does a usurper’s son create legitimacy?
After the death of Henry IV of England, Prince Hal as everyone has been calling him, has a plan to establish himself on the throne as Henry V despite his shaky claim to the crown. His success depends on careful planning, courageous battling, and--to his surprise--divine Providence.
At the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought in June, Dr. Glenn Arbery, president of Wyoming Catholic College explained how Shakespeare told the tale of Prince Hal in the play "Henry V."
Here are Dr. Arbery’s remarks in their entirety.
August 14, 2018
Hercules, that greatest of all Greek heroes, possessed a mighty and magical bow that bequeathed to a man named Philoctetes.
Sailing from Greece to invade Troy and bring back Helen, Philoctetes received a wound on his foot that became foul and festering. So foul and festering that people couldn’t stand being near him and so the decision was made to maroon him alone on a deserted island with his bow.
But the Trojan War went badly for the Greeks and they knew that they could not win without Philoctetes’ bow. The question was how to get it back from Philoctetes who, after ten years on his island, was bitterly angry at Odysseus and the other Greek leaders who had left him.
At the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, Dr. Virginia Arbery discussed the story of Philoctetes in modern Irish author Seamus Heaney’s play “The Cure at Troy.”
Here are her remarks.
July 3, 2018
“Antigone,” written by the Athenian poet Sophocles in the fifth century BC poses a dilemma: What do we do when the government says one thing, but God—or in this case the gods—say otherwise?
In the play Antigone’s two brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, chose opposite sides in the civil war in Thebes. In battle the two brothers kill each other just as the side Eteocles chose wins the war. The victorious new ruler, Creon, decrees that Eteocles will be honored as a great hero and buried with all dignity and holy rites.
As for Polyneices’ body, Creon says, “it has been proclaimed to the city that no one honor with a tomb or lament with cries, but let him lie unburied, his body devoured by birds and by dogs and mangled for the seeing.” Disobedience will be punished by death.
But the gods decree the dead should be buried. “That one I shall give rites,” says Antigone, “It is noble for me to die doing this.”
Dr. Virginia Arbery taught a class on Antigone and her courage at The Wyoming School of Catholic Thought. Here are her comments.
June 26, 2018
“Ah me, son of valiant Peleus;” said the messager to Achilles in book 18 of The Iliad, “you must hear from me the ghastly message of a thing I wish never had happened. Patroklos has fallen, and now they are fighting over his body which is naked. Hektor of the shining helm has taken his armor.”
As we began discussing courage at this year’s Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, we turned our attention to Achilleus, the paragon of courage. In book 18 of The Iliad, Achilles, who has refused to help the nearly-defeated Greeks, mourns the loss of his friend Paroklos and resolves to rejoin the battle. And he does that knowing that his death in battle is absolutely certainty once he avenges Patroklos death by killing Hecktor.
Dr. Glenn Arbery, president of Wyoming Catholic College, explains how Achilles’ decision and the shield and armor that are then designed for him, give us a picture of courage that becomes the baseline for all other depictions of this virtue.
May 22, 2018
Wyoming Catholic College graduation was Saturday, May 12. It came with all the pomp and circumstance, academic regalia, and excitement that you might expect. Our speaker was author and scholar Joseph Pearce who was our guest on last week’s After Dinner Scholar.
The evening before the big event, however, was a smaller, more intimate gathering of graduates and their families along with college faculty and staff. That night, at the President’s Dinner, college president Dr. Glenn Arbery reflected on the seniors, their four years of liberal arts education, and their participation in the great tradition of the Christian West.
Dr. Arbery is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.