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When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do."  Walt Disney

When do the Seminars take place?

  • SESSION I: June 23 – 28, 2024
  • SESSION II: July 7 – 12, 2024FULL

The Program

The Seminar will be housed in the beautiful Tennessee Williams Center at 406 Kentucky Avenue, the home of Sewanee’s excellent theatre program. 

Each lecture described below is given on a single morning. After a break for refreshments, participants may join a further discussion of the main lecture or choose to attend a different presentation given by another faculty member.

Who comes to the Seminars?

We always have a lively group composed of alumni, friends of Sewanee, and those who are simply curious about this beautiful place. The only prerequisite is that you enjoy the flow of ideas and the company of interesting people. Some participants are quickly swept into active dialogue; others come to absorb and reflect.

Who teaches the Seminars?

We will be celebrating our 49th anniversary this summer with a group of outstanding speakers:

  1. Professor Ross Macdonald, English
  2. Professor Doug Drinen, Mathematics and Computer Science
  3. Professor Eric Ezell, Environmental Studies
  4. Professor Sean O'Rourke, Rhetoric and American Studies
  5. Professor John Willis, History
  6. Professor Carolyn Hoagland, University Farm

Click here to see this year's faculty.

The Week 

  • Sunday, afternoon:
    • Arrive at the Tennessee Williams Center for check-in 1:30–4:00 p.m. Central Time
    • Opening reception at 4 p.m. 
  • Monday–Friday mornings, 9 a.m.–noon: Seminars
  • Monday–Friday afternoon and evenings: Optional programs and activities
  • Friday late afternoon: Final reception and farewell dinner
  • Saturday morning: Departure by 10 a.m.

The Daily Schedule

Mornings begin with a hearty breakfast at McClurg, followed by the main lecture of the day at 9 a.m. After a break for refreshments it is time for a choice: to discuss the main lecture topic or to join a new talk with a different professor. Thus, each morning includes opportunities to pursue two different subjects. Everyone hears the main lecture, then some pursue that subject for the rest of the morning while others jump into one of the “second talks.”

Afternoons and evenings are for more informal activities. We provide plenty of opportunities for hikes, visits to interesting local spots, film viewings, and other activities. Many participants mix these with their own forays into the library, into the sun, or into the luxury of unscheduled time. Use of duPont Library and the Fowler Sport and Fitness Center are included in the program.

Housing and Meals

Session I participants will live in the Phillips Hall while Session II participants will be housed in Benedict Hall. Meals, with the exception of our farewell dinner, will be at the University Dining Commons, McClurg Hall. The campus coffee house, named after Ted Stirling, the founder of the Sewanee Summer Seminar, is on the east side of the Bishop’s Common.

How much does it cost?

$675 for each adult participant (tuition, double room, shared bath, and meals)
$725 for each adult participant (tuition, single room, might be a shared bath if we are crowded, and meals)
$375 for tuition only, per person (no housing or meals)
$75 early arrival fee per day, per person
For tuition-only participants, meals are also available on an individual basis.

Remember: The Summer Conference Office charges early arrivals (Saturday after 2 p.m.) $75.00 per person, per night

How do I make a reservation?

Register online
A deposit of $100 reserves your place or send deposits and direct questions to:
Professor Bethel Seballos
Director, Sewanee Summer Seminar
The University of the South
735 University Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37383-1000
Email     931.598.1469    


Sewanee Seminar Talks



Primary Talks

Professor Ross Macdonald - "Shakespeare's Weird Sisters: From Holinshed's History to Macbeth's Mystery"
Macbeth contains Shakespeare's most powerful treatment of the occult in the form of the Weird Sisters, or witches, who precipitate the play’s action when they prophesy Macbeth’s elevation as thane of Cawdor and then king of Scotland. But what did witchcraft mean in Shakespeare’s own time? What power, if any, do the Weird Sisters possess? Do they provoke Macbeth’s own ambition with empty words or manipulate him through genuine magic? Where is the moral boundary between their supernatural solicitation and Macbeth’s subsequent murder of King Duncan? This talk will explore these issues by examining the play in light of historical and theological contexts from Shakespeare's world. I'd like the participants to read (or re-read) Macbeth in advance, any edition would be fine.

Professor Doug Drinen“What math is and how mathematicians see the world”
The primary goal of this talk is to give you an idea of how the process of mathematical discovery happens. As we do so, we will remind ourselves of some mathematical ideas that are thousands of years old and possibly did not seem particularly interesting to you when you first encountered them. I'll make the case that they are indeed interesting and discuss why they are important enough to have survived in the mathematical consciousness for so long. No matter how long ago your last math class was, and no matter what you thought of it at the time, if you're game for some exploration, you'll have a good time at this talk.

Professor Sean O’Rourke - “The Rhetoric of the Civil Rights-Era Sit-Ins: Two Case Studies”

Professor Eric Ezell - "From Wind to Whales: ocean food webs in a changing world."
Every other breath we owe to the ocean. (Arguably that other breath, too!) We are only beginning to understand the ocean's superlative importance in our everyday lives, but we know even less about humanity's myriad impacts upon the marine ecosystems that sustain us. In this crash-course in oceanography, we will connect all the dots between a gust of wind on the sea surface and the richly productive ecosystems that support great wonders such as whales and cool climates. We then use this conceptual map to elucidate the interconnected ways in which human activities are altering our blue planet, both fundamentally and tangibly, even for land-locked places like Sewanee.

Professor John Willis - “Before Sewanee Became Sewanee: Finding Hints in Words and On the Land.”
When you read books or hear speakers describing the founding of the University of the South, do you ever wonder . . . What was here before that? Who was here? How can we know what they did and what they cared about? We’ll learn about the area’s early history and examine ways to read the past, both in documents and on the landscape.

Second Talks

Professor Ross Macdonald - "William Peterfield Trent, Sewanee's First English Professor"

Professor Doug Drinen – “Life lessons learned by a mathematician from a lifelong obsession with sports “

Professor Sean O’Rourke - “Books, Books, Books! Building a Personal Library (and Helping Others Build Theirs)”

Professor Eric Ezell – “Whale song (and burps): unexpected sonic dispatches from a whale feeding ground”

Professor John Willis – “Sewanee Gossip – Spilling the Tea, Nineteenth-Century Style”

Sewanee Seminar Faculty


  1. Professor Ross Macdonald, English
  2. Professor Doug Drinen, Mathematics and Computer Science
  3. Professor Eric Ezell, Environmental Studies
  4. Professor Sean O'Rourke, Rhetoric and American Studies
  5. Professor John Willis, History
  6. Professor Carolyn Hoagland, University Farm
Professor Ross Macdonald, English

Since 2013, Ross Macdonald has taught Milton, Shakespeare, Renaissance Literature, and English Drama to 1642 in the English department, as well as Texts and Contexts of the Early Modern World for the interdisciplinary Humanities program. His sustained research interest has been in the intersection of religious belief and literary form in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England, and his essays have appeared in Studies in PhilologySpenser StudiesBen Jonson JournalSEL, and in several edited collections. In 2022, he was a Lindsay Young Visiting Regional Faculty Fellow at the Marco Institute for Medieval & Renaissance Studies at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Professor Doug Drinen, Mathematics and Computer Science

After a two year post-doc at Dartmouth College, Doug Drinen came to Sewanee in 2001. He greatly enjoys teaching across the entire undergraduate mathematics curriculum. During his time at Sewanee, his research interests have shifted from functional analysis to probability, graph theory, economics, and any other area in which he can find problems to work on with students and colleagues. He also serves as a mentor to two cohorts of the Posse Program at Sewanee.

Professor Eric Ezell, Environmental Studies

Eric Ezell teaches courses in marine ecology, conservation, and sustainability. He studied Environmental Studies and Religion at Sewanee (C'08) before earning a PhD in biological oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His research focuses upon whale ecology and interactions with the shipping industry, and he works in close collaboration with coastal First Nations in British Columbia, Canada.

Professor Sean O'Rourke, Rhetoric and American Studies

Sean O’Rourke joined the faculty in 2016 with a joint appointment in Rhetoric and American Studies. A full professor, he now serves as Chair of American Studies, Chair of the Rhetoric program, and Co-Director of the Center for Speaking & Listening. He holds both a J.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon (go Ducks!) and teaches and writes in the areas of rhetoric, protest, and legal rights. An award-winning teacher, mentor, and scholar, O’Rourke has published three books and over one hundred articles and book chapters. He has held Lilly (2), Cothran, Piper Ethics, NEH (2) and Brown Distinguished fellowships, and has served as the President of the American Society for the History of Rhetoric.

Professor John Willis, History

John Willis teaches U.S. history from the American Revolution to the recent past, with emphasis on the role and changes of the South. He has published on slavery in antebellum Virginia and the New South frontier of the Mississippi Delta and is currently exploring the environmental history of the Cumberland Plateau. In his current research, Professor Willis focuses on the southern Cumberland Plateau, giving special attention to the interaction of human ambitions and the natural environment. Professor Willis has published in The Journal of American History, The American Historical Review, Southern Cultures, and The Journal of Southern History. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Historical Association, the Mellon and duPont foundations, and other philanthropic agencies.

Professor Carolyn Hoagland, University Farm

Carolyn Hoagland is a soil ecologist with a dedication to sustainability principles and student collaboration. She is finishing a Ph.D. in Soil and Crop Science at Colorado State University, where she also completed a Master’s Degree. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and a permaculture design certificate from Oregon State University. As Farm Manager, her projects include the construction of hoop houses and expansion of composting practices.




Use the form below to secure your spot in the Summer Seminar.

To complete this form, click here.



Blast from the Past



2008 Session 1 Participants
  2009 Session 1 2009 Session 2  
2010 Session 1 2010 Session 2 2011 Session 1 2011 Session 2
2012 Session 1 2012 Session 2 2013 Session 1 2013 Session 2
2014 Session 1 2014 Session 2 2015 Session 1 2015 Session 2