by Isaiah Hinsley
On Thursday, October 8, the College of Arts and Humanities, the School of the Arts, and the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures hosted the Fourth Annual Symposium on the Shape of Humanities in the Campus Center Ballroom. The theme for this year’s panel discussion was “War, After War, and the Possibilities for Literature.”
Dr. Randy Hendricks, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, was the moderator
for the discussion that focused on building veteran communities and giving them a
chance to share experiences through the Talking Service program. Talking Service helps
veterans use literature to transition back to civilian life. The program uses the
anthology “Standing Down: From Warrior to Civilian” and contains military stories
all throughout history.
“I was really interested in what I could learn from the experience, both about the possibilities of literature for creating a community for veterans to talk in, but even more for veterans to talk to civilians about their experiences,” said Dr. Hendricks. “I was the ultimate civilian in the group. I learned more than I expected from their experiences. It was a great experience and inspired me to select the theme for the Fourth Annual Symposium on the Shape of Humanities.”
Dr. Hendricks and the four other guest panelists are currently involved in a movement that uses literature among veterans in the Talking Service communities. Donald H. Whitfield of the Great Books Foundation is the editor of the anthology “Standing Down: From Warrior to Civilian.” Dr. Kristin Kelly is an associate professor of English at the University of North Georgia and a facilitator of a Talking Service program in Gainesville, Georgia. Arden Williams is the senior program officer for the Georgia Humanities Council and statewide coordinator for Talking Service. Matt Gallaher is the author of “Kaboom,” a novel based on his experiences in Iraq, and an associate of Words After War, a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization.
“Being a part of Talking Service, as a daughter of a Vietnam veteran, has allowed me to be a witness,” said Dr. Kelly. “I may not be a part of the military, but I can be a witness. The public work of humanities is to bear witness of human experience.”
Early this year, Dr. Hendricks facilitated a reading group associated with the Talking Service program with 10 members to start a program in Carrollton.
“Our original title four years ago was the Shape of the Humanities in Higher Education,” said Dr. Hendricks. “But we assumed otherwise that our scope went far beyond the walls of academics. So we shortened our title to emphasize how much outreach is involved in the work we're doing here.”
“When I thought of the program at first I was think this is not an academic program this is not what we do,” said Donald. “The Great Books Foundation is not an institution, but we encourage people to read powerful literature and reflect to relate to their own experience to interpret it to elevate it. Regardless of their politics or position, this will create opportunities to reflect on this important matter and go way beyond veterans’ positions and beyond the making of war. That’s really the genesis of Talking Service.”
There are now over 40 Talking Service programs in 12 different states nationwide, and each of them have multiple sites where groups of veterans and anyone else are invited to join discussion sessions on a regular basis. The Fourth Annual Symposium on the Shape of Humanities was the first part of the three day Interdisciplinary Conference in the Humanities, which ended on Saturday October 10.
To learn more about Talking Service visit www.talkingservice.greatbooks.org or for more information on upcoming events visit www.westga.edu/sota or www.westga.edu/forlang.