Robert Hellenga, professor emeritus of English at Knox College, will deliver Monmouth College’s 29th annual Bernice L. Fox Classics Lecture on March 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pattee Auditorium in the Center for Science and Business.
Titled “Confessions of a Fictional Classicist,’” the lecture is free and open to the public.
Two of Hellenga’s novels – “The Fall of a Sparrow” and “The Confessions of Frances Godwin” (which will be published this spring) ¬– represent very different attempts to use the world of classical antiquity to frame modern stories. “Fall” is based on “pretty solid knowledge” of the Homeric epics and on two months of on-site research in Bologna, Italy, where most of the story takes place. “Confessions,” he says, is based on “a wing and a prayer.”
Hellenga will address the different challenges he faced in writing about a professor of Greek at a small liberal arts college (“Fall”) and about a retired high school Latin teacher who murders her abusive son-in-law (“Confessions”).
Hellenga began teaching English literature at Knox in 1968 and published his first story in 1973. During his tenure at Knox, he directed two programs for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest – one at the Newberry Library in Chicago and one in Florence, Italy. He also spent a year at the University of Chicago on a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. He and his wife, Virginia, who was a member of Monmouth’s classics faculty for 16 years, are frequent travelers to Italy. In 2009, they spent six weeks in Verona, where he was a visiting writer at the university.
Established in 1985, the lecture honors the late Bernice L. Fox, who taught classics at Monmouth from 1947 until 1981. The goal of the series is to illustrate the continuing importance of classical studies in the modern world and the intersection of the classics with other disciplines in the liberal arts.