Common text fuses subjects to enhance learning

Students and faculty gathered to discuss J. Drew Lanham’s book “The Home Place” during a Common Text Colloquium held at the Chapman Auditorium in the McNair Science Building on Feb. 28 at 2:30 p.m.

During the colloquium, Associate Professor of English Shawn Smolen-Morten moderated a group of panelists who discussed the themes found in Lanham’s book. The group included: Jimmy Taylor, a Marion County farmer and vice president of the Marion County Farm Bureau; Delilah Clark, assistant professor of English; and Marsha Taylor, assistant professor of English.

The Common Text Colloquium became what it is today when it was combined with the Hunter Lecture 10 years ago. Previously, an author would come to campus and give a lecture with a book signing and reception at the end. This year’s Common Text Colloquium was different because Lanham was not able to come because of personal matters, so there was a panel instead.

Smolen-Morten was fundamental in putting together the colloquium, and he wanted it to be a learning experience.

“I tried to create not just a common read, but a common experience across classes,” Smolen-Morten said. “It connected biology, someone from the community and someone from the English department. That helps draw the community together. The students can see that, and they can see how to do events like that. It also gets them to think outside of a discipline. Sometimes we train students to just think like a biologist, and then go think like an English student. This way the students think about both of the disciplines.”

Lanham is a professor that teaches ornithology, the study of birds, at Clemson University. In his book “The Home Place,” Lanham wrote about how his childhood on his family’s farm in South Carolina made him the man he is today. He also wrote about his experience being a black man who loves to be out in nature, and how that is considered abnormal.

Assistant Professor of English Lochran Fallon was one of the audience members, and she said she was interested in not only the content of the book but also how it touches on topics that are important for students to learn about.

“I felt it was pretty interesting to at least touch on topics of not only the racial disparity,” Fallon said. “It had never occurred to me before, but also touched on what is possible for public spaces and the impact of farming, and lack of interaction of people and nature.”