English Professors “Take Five” to Talk Literature

By Kyle Wente, Staff Writer—

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, members of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga English Department hosted “Take Five,” a book club on campus dedicated to in-depth discussion of American literature. 

Take Five has been held intermittently since 1992.  Though open to the student body, many of its members are off-campus retirees, UTC alumni, and staff that have been consistently attending since its founding.

“This is a group of people that have been following the event (Take Five) sponsored by the English Department, and particularly the events sponsored by the George Connor Professorship, for many years,” said Aaron Shaheen, a doctorate holder in American Literature and current host of the Take Five events.

The event has created a close-knit community of people who love books, but Shaheen hopes to draw more of the student body in through group discussion and interpretation.

“‘I may not know what this line of the poem means, but I do know it this way,’ Somebody else could say this,” Shaheen said. “It becomes more of a collaborative effort.”

Tuesday night’s book was a biography written by Simon Winchester on the founders of the Oxford English Dictionary, titled The Professor and the Madman. 

English department professor Hugh Prevost presented the biography with an extensive lecture on the piece. The lecture was followed with a panel of qualified professors and scholars that continued the conversation and answered questions from the audience. The piece was interpreted throughout as a record of colonization effects on the English language.

“The book shows how, through the association of two unlikely figures, a book can attain the characteristics of a human being,” said Shaheen.

According to Prevost, the Oxford English Dictionary, or OED, is a vital resource in tracing the essence of what the English language is and how it—like a human being—evolves through contact with new things and ideas. The OED records a timeline of linguistics including the origins of words, the evolution of their meanings, and ultimately what defines today’s English.

“At its best, literature teaches us how to use our imagination. We don’t just read— we create as we follow the words along the page. We become creators, not just trackers of words,” Shaheen said.

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