One of Dr. Eric Griffin's favorite classes to teach is The Romance - and his students might say it's quite entertaining.
"What make this course so much fun is that we also look at modern film versions of the Romance - think 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' - and, we write our own Romances in imitation of the writers we've read," said Griffin, chair of the English Department.
Dr. Eric Griffin will present the public lecture "'Ye strangers that doe inhabite in this land': Shakespeare and Immigration" on November 8, 2012
The Romance follows the birth of the genre from the vernacular epics of the Middle Ages through Arthurian romances to the literary romances of great Renaissance writers such as Ariosto in Italy, Spenser and Shakespeare in England, and Cervantes in Spain.
"The students come up with amazing Romance projects. Along with writing poems, short stories or plays, I've had students write musicals or song cycles, paint and sculpt, make films, and once, a student who had been involved with Ballet Mississippi even choreographed and performed a ballet for her final project.
"So while it is in some ways a traditional literary history class, it is also a group exercise in the creative process. If I can help students to unlock their own creative sensibilities, that's when I'm really teaching."
It is fitting that Griffin, who encourages his students to fully embrace the humanities, is the 2012 Humanities Teacher of the Year at Millsaps. He will give a public lecture entitled "'Ye strangers that doe inhabite in this land': Shakespeare and Immigration," at 4 p.m. Nov. 8 in room 215 of the Academic Complex. A reception will follow.
A graduate of Pomona College, Griffin earned his master's and doctorate in English Renaissance literature and culture from the University of Iowa before joining the Millsaps faculty in 1998.
"Since that time, Eric has established a reputation on campus as a challenging and engaging teacher in both literary and cultural studies courses," said Dr. S. Keith Dunn, senior vice president and dean of academic affairs at Millsaps College. "He has been a tireless advocate for the Latin American Studies program, coordinating and teaching in the semester-abroad program in Yucatán."
Griffin's scholarship focuses on how the political and religious rivalry with Spain shaped the national identity of renaissance England. "This was beautifully captured in his 2009 book, English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain: Ethno-poetics and Empire, a work that garnered him national recognition and an invitation to participate in the prestigious Folger Institute Research Symposium at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. and conferences in Spain and Canada," Dunn said.
Griffin became interested in Anglo-Hispanic literary and cultural relations while growing up in California.
"Out there, I had studied Spanish from about fourth grade on. And then my initial major in college was Latin American History, with a particular emphasis on Mexico. After studying in Mexico, life intervened, and I stopped taking classes for a few years," he said. "When I returned to college at Pomona, I discovered Shakespeare and also creative writing, which were my majors there. But I kept taking classes in Spanish literature and culture, mainly because I loved doing it.
"When I finally got to graduate school, I discovered that Shakespeare and the Spanish writers of the Golden Age had an incredible amount in common, but that because separate national literary traditions had grown up around them, they were seldom examined comparatively. I wanted to investigate how and why this happened."