OBU will host the Lamppost Literary Conference Friday, Feb. 25, on the University’s campus in Shawnee. The event promotes the reading and teaching of the Great Books and is themed “Great Books for All.” Hosted by the Division of Language and Literature, the conference is designed for students, parents, teachers, home school educators, administrators of primarily Christian and classical schools, as well as home school networks, along with all readers of great books.
The event will feature guest speakers Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, Dr. Anika Prather and Fr. Nathan Carr. Dr. Alan Noble, associate professor of English, will deliver a lecture titled, “Your Education is Not Your Own.” Keynote addresses will be given by Prior and Prather, while Carr will participate in a panel discussion. Additionally, breakout sessions led by OBU faculty members will explore the value of teaching and reading the great books in today’s diverse world and will discuss strategies for teaching specific texts or authors.
According to Dr. Brent Newsom, chair of the Division of Language and Literature and associate professor of English, high school literature teachers and students, from classical, Christian and public schools, as well as home school parents, will gain inspiration and practical tools at the conference to sustain their work as educators.
Newsom commented about how the sessions led by Noble, Carr, Prior and Prather will relate to the conference theme and emphasize the value of great literature for people from all backgrounds.
“Our two keynote speakers, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior and Dr. Anika Prather, are among today’s foremost advocates for the transformational value of encounters with great books,” Newsom said. “Prior’s book, ‘On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books’ and Prather’s volume ‘Living in the Constellation of the Canon: The Lived Experiences of African American Students Reading Great Books Literature,’ powerfully show how studying great books empowers readers to understand, express and respond to fundamental human concerns.
“In addition, Fr. Nathan Carr, headmaster of The Academy of Classical Christian Studies, will join Prior and Prather for a panel discussion, and OBU’s own Dr. Alan Noble will also speak at the conference, drawing on his incisive new book ‘You Are Not Your Own.’ It promises to be a day filled with insight and inspiration. These remarkable scholars call us to go deeper with literature and to make that depth accessible to a broader range of readers and students. Their work releases literature from the page and shows how it becomes embodied in the lives of readers who are formed by it.”
Taking its name from the lamppost featured prominently in C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia,” the Lamppost Literary Conference draws inspiration from writers like Lewis and his friend J.R.R. Tolkien and offers a Christian framework for the imaginative practices of reading great literature and writing creatively.
Newsom encourages all high school students to attend, as the conference gives them a great look at the quality education offered at OBU.
“High school students are encouraged to attend the Lamppost Conference. The student track is free of charge and enables high schoolers to get a taste of life as an OBU student, while also receiving the benefit of the plenary sessions.”
The schedule for the day begins with check-in starting at 8 a.m. followed by a welcome and introduction at 8:30 a.m. Noble’s lecture, “Your Education is Not Your Own,” will kick off the keynote sessions for the day.
Following a brief break, three breakout sessions will begin at 10:15, led by three OBU professors. Dr. Jessica Rohr, assistant professor of English, will lead “Narnia in the Writing Classroom.” Dr. Edward English, visiting assistant professor of English, will lead “Native American Literature in the Classical Context.” Dr. Kaine Ezell, associate professor of English, will lead “Teaching ‘Huckleberry Finn.’”
The next breakout session will begin at 11:30 a.m. Newsom will lead a session on “Frederick Douglass and the Great Tradition.” Dr. Daniel Spillman, associate professor of history and director of the OBU Honors Program, will teach a session titled “Teaching History with Plutarch.” Dr. Lyda Wilbur, assistant professor of Spanish, will lead a session titled “Spanish Language Literature and the Classical Classroom.” Lunch and the keynote session with Dr. Karen Swallow Prior will follow at 12:45 p.m.
The next breakout session will commence at 2 p.m. Dr. Benjamin Myers, Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature and professor of literature and English, will lead “The Divine Comedy and Spiritual Formation.” Dr. Sidney Watson, professor of English, will teach a session on “W.E.B. DuBois and the Great Books.” Dr. Charles Swadley, associate professor of English and Spanish, will lead “Teaching Sophocles’ Oedipus.”
A 3:30 p.m. panel on “Diversity and Classical Education” will include Prior, Prather and Carr. Following a meet and greet at 5 p.m., dinner and a keynote session featuring Prather will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will conclude the event.
A separate track will be available for high school students. This track will include the keynote sessions with Noble, Prior and Prather, as well as the afternoon panel discussion, but adds in a campus tour, a student panel, the chance to sit in on an OBU class and lunch in OBU’s Café on the Hill.
All attendees are asked to register online in advance. Registration for adults is $35 and high school students are free. A maximum registration fee of $60 per family is available to make the conference affordable for families bringing multiple family members. Those unable to attend the conference in person may register to stream the plenary and keynote sessions.
Karen Swallow Prior, Ph. D., is research professor of English and Christianity and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is the author of “Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me” (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012), “Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist” (Thomas Nelson, 2014) and “On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books” (Brazos, 2018).
She is co-editor of “Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues” (Zondervan 2019) and has contributed to numerous other books. Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, First Things, Vox, Relevant, Think Christian, The Gospel Coalition, Religion News Service, Books and Culture and other places. She is a founding member of The Pelican Project, a senior fellow at the Trinity Forum, a senior fellow at the International Alliance for Christian Education, a senior fellow at the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and a former member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States.
Dr. Anika T. Prather earned a B.A. from Howard University in elementary education. She has also earned several graduate degrees in education from New York University and Howard University. She earned a master’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College and a Ph.D. in English, theatre and literacy education from the University of Maryland. Her research focus is on building literacy with African American students through engagement in the books of the canon. She has self-published her dissertation, “Living in the Constellation of the Canon: The Lived Experiences of African American Students Reading Great Books Literature.”
She has served as a teacher, supervisor for student teachers, director of education and head of school. She currently teaches about the Black classical tradition in various universities as an online adjunct and is the founder of The Living Water School located in southern Maryland. The Living Water School is a unique Classical Christian school for independent learners, based on the educational philosophies of Classical Education and the Sudbury Model. She and her family reside in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
Fr. Nathan Carr is headmaster of The Academy of Classical Christian Studies in Oklahoma City. He leads The Academy by casting and safeguarding its vision and overseeing its overall operations, as well as shaping and developing The Academy’s culture, staff and curricular offerings. He began serving at Providence Hall in 2006, teaching secondary school math and science, functioning as upper school development director and then being named provost before becoming headmaster for The Academy.
Carr’s introduction to and subsequent love of great books occurred in the Western Civ classroom at OBU. After graduation from the University of Central Oklahoma, he enrolled at Reformed Theological Seminary and earned a Master of Arts in religion. He has also completed post-graduate work at the University of Toronto’s Wycliffe College, is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church and is vicar of St. James Episcopal Church of Oklahoma City.
Dr. O. Alan Noble is associate professor of English at OBU, editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture and author of numerous articles and books. He has been teaching composition and literature for more a decade, beginning at Antelope Valley College in his hometown of Lancaster, California, then at Baylor University before coming to OBU.
Noble has contributed scholarship on Cormac McCarthy and has published a book with InterVarsity Press titled, “Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age.” His most recent book, “You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World,” was released in 2021. Noble is co-founder of the evangelical political organization Public Faith; a member of the Leadership Council of the AND Campaign; and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Vox, Buzzfeed, First Things, Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition. He has given talks on literature, popular culture, technology, secularism and related issues at a number of colleges, churches and organizations.
Register for the Lamppost Literary Conference.