The O’Donovan Humanities Lecture is an annual event, featuring scholars and artists from around the country, which aims to instill a deeper appreciation of the importance of the humanities in everyday life. Named after the first Headmistress of Oakcrest, Pat O'Donovan—who opened Oakcrest in 1976 with 22 girls in Washington, D.C.—the lecture honors her legacy as a gifted teacher who could convey to students the joy of learning. Oakcrest hopes to spread this joy to others in the community through this annual lecture. 

Seventh Annual O'Donovan Humanities Lecture 
Ancient and Modern Grief: Presence and Absence

A pair of scholars, father and daughter, looked at grief from two angles. The daughter, a classics scholar, took up an ancient story of grief and anger from Homer’s Iliad. The father, a priest and theologian in the Episcopal church, pondered the loss of his wife at the end of a struggle with brain disease. Both found tension between absence and presence. Achilles undertakes many futile efforts to “restore” his broken life after he loses Patroklos, and the father finds another Presence precisely in the midst of his loss.
Watch the Seventh Annual O'Donovan Humanities Lecture

Speaker Bios

Emily Austin is an Assistant Professor of Classics and the College at the University of Chicago, and the Book Review Editor for Classical Philology. Her scholarship focuses on the interplay of language and meaning in the Homeric poems and Greek poetry more generally. Her first book, Grief and the Hero: the Futility of Longing in the Iliad (Michigan, 2021), explores the nexus of grief, longing, and anger in the Iliad. Her current book project investigates conceptions of solitude in ancient Greek literature. Emily’s love for good books and great conversation stems from her parents, who filled her childhood with both.
Victor Lee Austin, Theologian-in-Residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, has been a priest for more than thirty-five years. He writes on ethics as well as the intersections of theology with everyday life. His books include Up with Authority, Christian Ethics: A Guide for the Perplexed, Losing Susan, and most recently Friendship: The Heart of Being Human. He presently enjoys revisiting the classics under the inspiration of his daughter.
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