Thursday, August 4th, 2011


   Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally. 

Dr. Florence M. Russo, an assistant professor in the Department of Languages and Literatures, writes:      

  Dante’s 14th century masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, a text which I have read countless times, has had a most incredible influence on my life. The text has become my second Bible. I would not be the person that I am today, had I never read it. For one, I would not be doing exactly what I am doing now as my chosen profession. The text’s sublime poetry and symmetry, its life lessons and emphasis on the power of the word and the importance of interpretation have set the fundamentals for world literature. As we journey through his text, Dante teaches us to become more attentive readers and thus more attentive discerners in the great text that is life, in its truths and in its semblances, to discern always the truth, even the truth that has the face of a lie (‘l ver c’ha la faccia di menzogna).                                                                                        

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Dr. Herbert Pierson, a professor in the Department of Languages and Literatures and co-editor of The Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, writes:

For as long as I can remember, I have had a love of reading, especially non-fiction history and biographies, but also selective 20th century English fiction.  My favorite fiction author from high school days, persisting until today, is the Anglo-Catholic writer Graham Greene.  I can never tire of reading his works, valuing the wisdom and insight that his usually very human fallible characters convey to me even more now that I possess a bit more maturity and life experience.  My favorite novel by Greene remains The Heart of the Matter, which takes place in a British Colony somewhere in West Africa during World War II.  The main character is the tortured Major Henry Scobie, a colonial police officer.  Scobie is trapped in a loveless marriage with Catherine, a devout Roman Catholic, while Scobie is himself is a convert and scrupulously devout.  In this context Scobie is confronted with several profound moral choices around which this well crafted novel revolves.  Rereading this novel last year while on vacation, I underlined several words or thoughts uttered by Scobie which struck me especially poignant in light of today:

In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.

 Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim.

What an absurd thing … to expect happiness in a world so full of misery.