Dr. Peter T. Whelan presented the 10th annual William C. Moran Address titled “Eve and the Monomyth: The Journey of On March 31, Whelan spoke on the biblical story of Eve and presented his reading of the story, which is contrary to the established interpretation. He compared the Eden story in Genesis to multiple other folk stories and fairytales.
Through this, Whelan’s literary analysis showed a pattern that the Eden story shares with these folk stories and fairytales. “I shall argue that perceiving this pattern requires the reader to reassess the role and character of all involved, particularly those of Eve and Yahweh,” Whelan said.
Whelan said a common folktale motif is to have one forbidden item and pointed out examples. For instance, one story that holds this motif is the tale of “Bluebeard” from Perrault’s collection. He argued that this and other common folktale motifs are prevalent in the Eve story.
“The prohibition is not a test but a trap that works every time,” Whelan said. He added that this point of view may portray Yahweh as the villain of the Eden story and that he in fact does accomplish the same purpose.
“The traditional reading of the Eden story relies on the reader’s belief that Yahweh can do no wrong, indeed that the good and the right is defined as whatever Yahweh wants—even when it conflicts with what is considered moral behavior,” Whelan said.
With his secular analysis of the Eden story, Whelan said he views it without this idea of Yahweh’s. He believes that secular critics cannot abandon a moral code in the way that can be done with the idea that Yahweh determines morality.
“Whereas tradition reverses the moral polarity, for the secular critic the story works the other way, casting Yahweh himself in the role of a mastermind bent on fomenting strife between Israelites and Philistines,” Whelan said.
“I was pleased to be able to attend the Moran address,” Zachary Greenwood, a student currently taking Whelan’s honors course, Grimms’ fairytales, said. “I loved being able to utilize the vocabulary I have learned in Dr. Whelan’s class, while having my knowledge of the material enhanced in an alternative fashion.”
Whelan said that the topic he chose for the Moran Address was one he had been considering for a long time, adding that it fit well with the class about folk and fairytales that he is currently teaching.
Whelan was pleased with the audience gathered to hear his speech and enjoyed speaking to them afterwards at the reception in The Cottage.
“There were many friendly faces: colleagues, current and former students, friends from town and from out of town,” Whelan said. He said he was pleased to be asked to give the Moran Address. He said he viewed it as a chance to give back to FMU, which has given him a wonderful place to teach and study for many years.
Whelan felt that people responded well to his speech although he said there is a risk when speaking on religion.
“I’ve always tried to make it clear that I had no designs on students’ faith, but at the same time, I’ve approached the Bible using the tools of my discipline and let the text take us where it may,” Whelan said. “A little humor goes a long way, and this audience laughed in all the right places.”
Whelan was born in Gloucestershire, England, in 1947. Whelan had a career in the military and attended the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He developed a love for literature and language at a young age but was not devoted to study. He served in The British Army of the Rhine until his resignation, when he began study at Durham University.
He has taught at the University of Oviedo, Spain, Kenyon College in Ohio and the University of Mu’tah in Jordan. He has also spent 22 years teaching at FMU.
The Moran Address is a lecture series given annually by a recently retired or senior faculty member who is distinguished in teaching, research and other areas. It was created to honor the life of Dr. William C. Moran and is funded by a donation from the Moran family.
Moran served South Carolina in higher education as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Winthrop University, Vice President of Academic Affairs at FMU and President of Lander University. He was also involved with United Way, Boy Scouts of America and the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.
Moran received the Order of the Palmetto in 2000, and served as Special Assistant to the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the United Arab Emirates. He also received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities in 2008. Moran passed away in 2009.