Memorize a Few Poems

Louise Cowan Discusses the Meditative Power of Memorization

Date published: Nov. 18, 2015 

This article was originally published in May 2013. It has been republished in memory of University Professor Louise Cowan, who passed away Nov. 16.

"If I had been called upon a year ago, when I was only 95, to address you this afternoon, I would, no doubt, have spoken of the importance of liberal arts education for the preservation of civilization. But now I will only tell you, 'be sure you have memorized a few poems to keep you company through whatever lies ahead.'"

So began University Professor Louise Cowan's address to the newest members of UD's chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa liberal arts honor society, in which she reminded her audience that learning poetry "by heart" means taking it into your heart in a way that is not unlike prayer.

"Recitation takes on the lineaments of meditation and activates powers of the soul which otherwise would remain dormant," said Cowan.

In a lecture interwoven with the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Crowe Ransom, A. E. Housman and Dylan Thomas, to name a few, Cowan focused on the "splendor of being" evoked by lyric.

"Lyric is a reawakening of the interior language embedded in humankind at creation, but lost at the fall," said Cowan. "It goes beyond the post-lapserian in order to see things as they ought to be.".

Louise and her husband Donald Cowan joined the university in 1959 as chair of the English and physics departments respectively. In the English Department, and later as dean of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts, Cowan played a major role in devising a curricula of classic texts that comprise both the Literary Traditions sequence in the Core Curriculum for undergraduates and the Institute of Philosophical Studies for doctoral students.

Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776, is the oldest and most respected undergraduate honors organization in the United States. In 1989, UD became the youngest university in the 20th century to receive a PBK chapter.

News

Art Alumna's Vintage Dress Design to Debut on Red Carpet

Dallas-area native and Door Number 9 designer Elisa Choffel Low, BA '03, will have her latest dress design showcased on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 22. The silver open-back vintage-style gown includes a striking chainmail jewelry inset created in collaboration with Toronto jewelry designer Kyra Matsui.

+ Read More

University Welcomes Leading Catholic Intellectual to Campus

On Friday, Sept. 13, the university community welcomed George Weigel, distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the father of two UD alumnae. Celebrated for his two-volume biography of St. John Paul II and many other intellectual contributions, Weigel presented an exploration of the current Catholic situation in light of a new interpretation of the past 250 years of the church's interaction with social, cultural, economic and political modernity.

+ Read More

Recent DBA Alumnus Begins Tenure-Track Position at UNI

Gabe Dickey, DBA '19, recently successfully defended his dissertation, titled "Exploring the Human Side of Audit Quality: Team Engagement and Partner Leadership Behaviors," for UD's Doctor of Business Administration. Dickey has spent his career in the accounting profession, the vast majority as a certified public accountant working in auditing. He began UD's DBA program three years ago, drawn in by his interest in broader business issues and the program's practitioner-oriented focus.

+ Read More