Inside the Core: English Graduate Student Works on Book
Frank Hunter with his fiancée, Alexa Doria
Inside the Core this week, many Core II students are reading or have just read The Passion of Saint Perpetua. Perpetua was a young North African martyr, who, with five companions, died under the reign of Septimius Severus in Carthage in the year 203. Her story, told by her and "in her own words," as the introduction says, up to the portion about the martyrs' deaths is told by another unnamed person (perhaps Tertullian), is believed to be the first writing done by a Christian woman. Many students get a lot out of this moving text about an incredibly brave and devoted young woman (who died at twenty-two, a young married woman and a nursing mother), as I have experienced in my own Core II classes and have heard from other faculty.
One student, Francis Hunter, not only found this text moving and interesting, but he has gone much further with it and is now working on a book project, consisting of his own translation of the text, along with his translations of the two Acta Brevia that supplement it, as well as five essays by scholars from a variety of disciplines. Francis (Frank) was a student in my Core III: Fantasy and Faith class several years ago. As an undergraduate Classics and English major with a minor in Latin, he stood out even in a very strong class for his passion about literature, particularly as it links to both the classics and faith. After graduation, Frank became a high school teacher and continued his studies as a graduate student in the English Department. He plans to work with Dr. Angela Weisl on his thesis on the Latin writer, Boethius. The book project connects with this subject for his thesis, as Boethius also was imprisoned and writing about suffering unjustly, as did Perpetua and her companions.
Frank tells about his interest in Perpetua starting from his first exposure to the text in Core II: "As a Latin student, I was eager to study this text. I was surprised by how greatly Perpetua's story affected me, and how I wrestled with the notion of martyrdom and self-sacrifice. Perpetua is a perennial witness of the Christian faith: although her visions are recorded as highly aesthetic and transcendent, her physical testimony, in leading her companions and dying for her faith, most impressed me." This interest, begun as a college sophomore, only grew, and as a graduate student, Frank says, "Seeking spiritual sustenance and intellectual challenges, I returned in the summer of 2021 to the authors I read in the Core curriculum at Seton Hall. I began to re-read Dante and Plato, but most of my attention was given to the The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity. I began to translate the text from its Latin original as a devotion to the saint and to study the Early Church; however, what began as recreation and prayer inspired me to work. I began to consider publishing a translation of Perpetua so that more people can read her story."
When Frank spoke to Dr. Weisl about his interest, she suggested he reconnect with me, and he also reached out to Fr. Joseph Laracy, another former professor, as well as others. He remembers, "Not only did I receive the advice I sought, but I was also embraced in my effort to translate and author a book. Now Dr. Enright, along with Fr. Laracy and other scholars, have supported the creation of a volume that features my translations of Perpetua and other supplementary narratives along with five chapters of commentary in the volume.” Fr. Laracy and I are both very excited to be working with Frank, on this path of serious scholarship in an area that deserves much further exploration. His passion for the subject is contagious.
Frank’s scholarly activities, along with teaching high school Latin, do not take up all his time. In fact, he just recently became engaged to his fiancée, Alexa Doria, another Seton Hall alum (BA, 2021), whom he met here. They are planning to get married in Seton Hall’s chapel, and Fr. Laracy will perform the wedding. Next year also Frank hopes to complete his MA in English. Meanwhile, he continues to work diligently on this book project. He is excited about it not only for its academic interest, but more deeply for its importance as a source of religious inspiration. He says, "I was struck by Perpetua’s commitment and faith, and I feel that she is worthy of study as an example of how all Christians should zealously embrace what they profess to believe."