Faculty gives ‘last lecture’ about language

March 20, 2018

Around 35 students gathered in the Legacy Multipurpose Room on March 19 to hear Peter Fields, associate professor of English,  give a lecture as a part of the Last Lecture Series.

This series is inspired by the famous “last lecture” given by Randy Pausch discussing the most important things he wanted his students to know before he died from pancreatic cancer. The lecture series on campus follows in that vein of allowing students to vote on a professor that they would like to hear speak and share the vast wealth of their knowledge with the community.

Fields’ lecture focused on the power and history of language. He compared Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” with the King James Bible, saying they both created a rich English heritage and demonstrated the influence and beauty of the English language. He referenced numerous Old and Middle English works such as “Beowulf,” “Paradise Lost” and “Metamorphosis.”

Charles Grissom, humanities senior, said that he was interested in reading some of the works that were mentioned and examining for himself their connection with the English language.

Nathan Conard, english freshman, said, “What really stood out to me was just how much Dr. Fields talked about language and how language is a living thing that evolves over time. It holds onto these ideas that we share as humanity and they are these really fundamental ideas, these really deep ideas that are embedded in the stories that we tell and they stay in these stories and get passed down through the language.”

This lecture series gives professors the chance to speak on topics that they are most passionate about.

Fields said, “Today was special and unique because it allowed me to approach what I do holistically. I was able to share with everybody a kind of complete picture of what language means to me.”

He said that he chose to speak about the greatest works of the English language because language is what makes life meaningful.

“I’m talking about things of ultimate importance. I’m talking about what is true to me. What is it about what I do that makes my life, and I feel my students life, meaningful,” Fields said. “This purposeful universe that I’m sharing with them, this round of belonging that language gives them, to me is speaking to what life is all about.”

Students said they responded well to the lecture series. Several questions were asked and students and faculty waited to talk with Dr. Fields about language.

Conard said, “I really like the series. It’s a great way to see your professors in a different light, aside from their lectures, and see what they’re really passionate about.”

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