“Yes, we tweet with words, but we need them too for our most important thinking. They help us understand our past; they guide us into the future.”
Anthony Vital believes strongly that English courses in a liberal arts setting offer an excellent opportunity for students to think carefully about words used well. “Words matter. We have to be passionate about them as we seek the best, most intelligent, compassionate way through history on our planet.”
Literature’s play with words is adventurous, and here lies its power to give us rich insights into ourselves and the world we have inherited. “Good thinking is never thinking in a vacuum, and good writing—the best of literature, the best of writing about literature—encourages us to think beyond the page, beyond the walls of the classroom to our shared humanity, its joys and sorrows, its struggles and responsibilities.”
Having experienced living on three continents—Africa, Europe, as well as North America, Vital has had many opportunities to reflect on our “shared humanity” and the responsibilities we have to each other and to the earth. He believes his teaching and research projects can all be traced, one way or another, to this wide-ranging experience.
At Transylvania, he has developed courses that focus on lyric poetry as an expressive form; on writing from Africa—including a May term course on writing from South Africa’s apartheid period; on the development of postmodern thought in literature and theory; and on ways we think and feel about nature. He worked with students to launch the university’s first organization devoted to environmental issues and then joined a small group of faculty from across campus to initiate Transylvania’s environmental studies minor. As longtime faculty advisor to The Transylvanian literary magazine, Vital has played an active role in encouraging student creativity.
His continued connection with Africa feeds his work on postcolonial theory. He regularly presents conference papers that encourage reading African literature with an understanding of underlying social justice and environmental concerns. From these papers, he has published articles exploring the importance of considering ecology, environmental justice, and the postcolonial condition when reading these texts.
His recent research revisits Romantic poetry with these issues in mind. In April 2011, he presented a version of his findings—“Recalling British Romantics for a Postcolonial Planet: Nature, Loss, and Hope”—to the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas.
Vital appreciates that his position at Transylvania has allowed him to nourish his many interests and explore the connections among them. “For all of us, a liberal arts setting offers opportunity to make the connections we need for life in our contemporary world.”