By Daniel Jackson
Sigma Tau Delta, the international honor society for English students, is a gathering place logophiles, bibliophiles or those who love the prose of JRR Tolkien or the poetry of Edmund Spenser.
On April 11, the Sigma Tau Delta society on the Bryan hill gathered in the yellow light of the Rhea County room as a heavy rain fell on the roof and sky turned blue-black. Some of the 16 students dressed for the occasion, donning cocktail dresses and ties.
This meeting was the changing of the guard: In this meeting, the society at Bryan elected its officers for the upcoming year and accepted five new members into the society. They also listened to guest speaker Professor of English at Taccoa Falls College, Ga., Donald Williams, who writes poetry and has authored eight books.
Krista Elsten, junior, was one of the new students who were inducted into the society that night. As an English major, she heard about the society often from her professors and fellow students.
She describes the society as a place for “lit nerds.”
Professor of English at Bryan Whit Jones said the society will listen to three to four speakers a year, take trips to the New American Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta, and around Christmastime, read Christmas classics in the library over cookies and hot chocolate.
Some of these events are open just for the club; others are open to the whole campus.
On April 25, the society will host a poetry slam in Brock Hall.
A poetry slam, Jones said, is “a little like a rapping competition.”
Participants will read their poems and the audience will pick a winner. Jones said a poetry slam is “in your face,” and poets will get immediate judgment on their work by an audience.
Sigma Tau Delta started their meeting by inducting the five new members.
After taking an oath, the new members listened to the history of the society. The society began one year before the Scopes Monkey Trial was held. Sigma Tau Delta was started in 1924 in order to “confer distinction for high achievement in English language, literature, and writing,” reads the society’s website.
The chapter at Bryan was started eight years ago. Jones, who told this part of the history of the society here on the hill, said the society has had its up and down years, but recently he’s seen the society gain more members on Bryan’s campus.
After Justin Galemore, senior, managed the elections of the officers for next year, he said, “That concludes some logistical stuff, so we can now have some fun.”
Williams read some of his poetry and then discussed how Christians should consume media. He said separating from the bad culture is not an option—Christians will still be exposed to it. He said Christians need to focus on good literature and the Bible so that the bad does not affect their minds.
“You keep that stuff washed out by keeping the good stuff flowing through,” he said.
Afterwards, a student asked Williams to speak in Elvish because when Jones introduced him, he said Williams spoke the language fluently.
“My students are always asking me to speak Klingon,” he said launching into the fictional language spoken by the Klingon warrior race of Star Trek. He accented the harsh language with fisted salutes
Then he spoke Elvish, the language JRR Tolkien developed for his trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings.”
Students listened with half smiles as he spoke the language that sounds like a stream flowing over rocks.
“We have to do Old English,” Williams said next.
Old English, the predecessor of modern English, is similar enough to modern English that a careful listener could understand the language.
He launched into the language, a language that sounded like a blend of German, Swedish and French.
One student figured out what he was speaking: The Lord’s Prayer. Williams went line by line, explaining the vocabulary, explaining that Old English pronounces things differently and that once a listener understands the rhythm and stresses of Old English, they can understand it much easier.
By 9 p.m., they were done. The rain outside had lessened. The new members were inducted. And Elsten liked her first meeting.
“It was good. It was fun,” she said.