Louise Cowan Discusses Southern Identity, Receives Honorary Degree at Sewanee

Cowan at Sewanee


Published Date: February 25, 2014

University Professor Louise Cowan's contributions to Southern education were recognized earlier this month when Sewanee: The University of the South, bestowed upon the longtime literature teacher an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Cowan delivered the convocation address for the university's Easter semester on what it means today to be a university "of the South."

"What comes to mind when we hear the word is a leisurely sense of life, and an emphasis on texture – on various ways of doing things that have authority through long devotion and care," said Cowan.

In a talk that quoted poets Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom and T.S. Eliot, Cowan argued that the South's view of poetry as "life heightened and made memorable" is central to the region's identity. She concluded with the thought that the South—with its eloquence, its humor, and its belief in the dignity of the individual—still has much to contribute to modern statesmanship.

The entirety of Cowan's address is available here.

A noted author and education pioneer who has continued to teach into her 90s, Dr. Cowan is best known for her lectures and her influence on students. She received the Charles Frankel Prize, the nation's highest award for achievement in the humanities (later renamed the National Humanities Medal), from President George H.W. Bush and is one of two women on the list of the 20 most brilliant living Christian professors.

Her interest in Southern literature and culture is a thread running throughout her work. In addition to her wide-ranging articles on classic literature from Aeschylus to Shakespeare to Toni Morrison, she has written extensively on Faulkner, Caroline Gordon, and the Fugitive Group of writers based at Vanderbilt in the 1920s who changed the path of American poetry and criticism.

PHOTO: Sewanee: The University of the South

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