Mississippi College

Summer Grants Take MC English Professors to Italy and Georgia

April 11, 2014

Mississippi College English professor David Miller will travel to Florence, Italy this summer to learn more about Dante’s epic “Divine Comedy.”

One of his English Department colleagues on the Clinton campus, James Potts, heads to Georgia to discover new angles about the life and times of acclaimed Christian writer Flannery O’Conner.

The two award-winning MC educators will hit the road in the coming months to pursue their passion for literature thanks to National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute grants.

“I’m excited for this opportunity to study with outstanding faculty from around the world in one of the most beautiful and historically significant cities in the world,” Miller said. “I want to use this opportunity to bring literature, history, philosophy and urban geography back to Mississippi College in meaningful ways for my literature courses.”

Serving more than two decades on the faculty at the Baptist-affiliated university, Miller says the seminar will enhance his teaching of freshman honors classes, sophomore literature courses and others.

Potts, who’s written extensively about Southern authors like James Dickey, is excited about the chance to build upon his knowledge of Flannery O’Conner. Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925, the late author lived many years in Milledgeville. She was the recipient of the National Book Award for Fiction. Her novels have included 1950s classics like “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Wise Blood.”

Dr. Potts will spend July in the Peach State and focus with other professors on the marvelous works of O’Conner. “I’ve been complaining that scholars have been caught in a rut, focusing on one aspect of her fiction for too long,” said the Jackson resident. “NEH decided to call together a group of scholars for a month-long seminar to try out new perspectives in her hometown and with access to all her papers.”

It will be a wonderful experience, Potts said, to work with college professors who have penned pieces in scholarly journals on extraordinary Southern authors including William Faulkner and Walker Percy. “It should be a fairly intense learning experience.”

MC English Department Chairman Jonathan Randle, interim dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, was thrilled to share the news in early April about his two colleagues.

Last summer, Mississippi College history professor Steven Patterson received a National Endowment for the Humanities summer grant to go to India. He studied the history of India with renowned scholars and visited such splendid sites as the Taj Mahal and Humayan’s recently restored tomb in New Delhi. The city of Amritsar, site of the Golden Temple of the Sikhs, was another stop.

“For me, the trip to India was transformative,” Patterson said. “I have a deeper understanding of Indian culture and history, as well as a lot of pictures and stories for my world civilization and British Empire classes.”

Photo: Dr. James Potts

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