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.
May 15, 2018
The Wyoming Catholic College Class of 2018 graduated on Saturday, May 12. Their graduation speaker was author and scholar Joseph Pearce.
Pearce has authored more than 24 books including The Quest for Shakespeare, Tolkien: Man and Myth, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, C. S. Lewis and The Catholic Church, Literary Converts, Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton, Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile and Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc.
Pearce is a man of books and books figure prominently into his conversion and his life. Joseph Pearce is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.
April 3, 2018
Dante’s descent into Hell in Inferno, begins on Good Friday in the year 1300. He sojourns in that place of pain, despair, and noise emerging appropriately at dawn on Easter. Then in the days following Easter, he climbs Mount Purgatory and is swept up to the heights of Heaven.
Dante’s Comedy tells an amazing tale, but perhaps just the thought of tackling Dante is overwhelming. Maybe you’ve tried to read it or thumbed through only to quit discouraged. Or perhaps you read all the words, but with little real satisfaction.
What you need is a guide and Wyoming Catholic College professor Dr. Jason Baxter, after guiding many of our students through Dante has a brand new book aptly titled, A Beginner’s Guide to Dante’s Comedy. To tell us about the book, Dr. Baxter is our guest on this edition of The After Dinner Scholar.
March 13, 2018
“I begin this book, on the humanities,” writes Wyoming Catholic College Associate Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities, Dr. Jason Baxter, “with a description of travel, because I think the experience of being immersed in a world of surprises, like I was in Ischia, and the experience of reading a ‘great book’… is fundamentally analogous.”
Dr. Baxter goes on to write that his just-released book Falling Inward: Humanities in the Age of Technology is an answer to the question, “How is the profound sense of travel like the experience of reading?” Both are fundamentally the experience he calls “falling inward.”
To discuss his book and the meaning of its title, Dr. Baxter is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.
Order Dr. Baxter's book, Falling Inward from Cluny Media or Amazon.