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On the Way to Christmas

The fall semester has finally concluded, and many of us are thankful – thankful not only for finals to be over but also for time to spend freely with our family and friends.

Sometimes it feels as if the entire month of December is Christmas, but the time leading up to it is actually a period called Advent. From the Latin adventus, which means “coming,” Advent begins on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30) and lasts four weeks. We can understand this as a time of preparation for Christmas (Christ’s first coming) and as a reminder to look forward to Christ’s second coming.

During Advent, there are three traditional feasts: Saint Barbara’s Day (Dec. 4), when a  branch of flowering cherry (a Barbara branch) is brought indoors to bloom on or around Christmas Day; the feast of Saint Nicholas (Dec. 6), when small gifts are placed in children’s shoes that are left outside the bedroom door the night before; and the feast of Santa Lucia (Dec. 13), which features customs from pre-Christian times and includes saffron-yellow buns (Lucia cakes) that are baked in the form of a spiral sun.

Some of us might have also seen Advent wreaths this month. The wreath may have its origins in the customs of pre-Christian Germanic people, who might have used wreaths of evergreen with lit candles to remind them of the return of light in the spring. However, there is also evidence that the theologian Johann Hinrich Wichern might have been the originator of this custom. In 1839, he supposedly built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 24 candles and hung it up in the orphanage he ran to accompany Advent prayers. Nowadays, we use just 4 candles – one lit on each Sunday in Advent – instead of the original 24.

As we gather with our loved ones this Christmas Eve and prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ tomorrow, I would like you to think of the symbolism in the Advent wreath made out of the old cartwheel. While I’m not suggesting we take a tire off of a car or bicycle and hang it upon the wall, we might think of the Christmas season as time spent with those we cherish, with no thought or need to go elsewhere. As time is the greatest gift, as it can’t be purchased, only given, I hope you find yourself in merry company.

Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Falvey Memorial Library.

Alexander Williams, ’11 MA, is the temporary librarian liaison to the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a research librarian on the Academic Integration and the Information and Research Assistance teams. He is currently pursuing an MS in Library and Information Science at Drexel University’s iSchool.


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Past Masters: The World’s Greatest Thinkers at Your Fingertips

As we make our way into finals week, some of you may be getting more intimate with Falvey’s lounge in Holy Grounds, Falvey Hall’s reading room or the new Student Lounge for graduate students in the liberal arts and sciences, all of which are open 24/7. As you plug in, charge up, and tune in to finals mode, you should know that, if the worst should happen – if you forget to checkout a book – resources from the library are available to you even when our doors are closed.

Past Masters is a massive digital collection of published and unpublished works, articles, essays, letters, reviews and more from some of the world’s greatest thinkers. In addition to classical, medieval, continental, British and American philosophy, you can find electronic editions of works in religious studies, political thought, sociology, the history of science, economics and the classics. Past Masters also offers The English Letters Collection, which consists of letters, notebooks diaries and memoirs of everyone from Austen to Yeats, and The Women Writers Collection: primary works, letters, journals and notebooks of de Beauvoir, Bronte, Shelley, Wollstonecraft and other famous women writers.

You can find Past Masters on our Database A-Z list, or through the philosophy, theology/religious studies, English, classical studies, and Augustine and Culture seminar subject guides.

(Images from Past Masters)

(Images from Past Masters)

Test your knowledge: How many of these authors do you recognize? (See below for answer key.)

Need to locate a passage from Augustine’s Confessions? Or trace the use of a single word throughout Aristotle’s entire works? Past Masters allows full-text searching by term, author, title and subject. Texts are available to you in in Latin, French, German, Danish, English and in authoritative English translation. Many works in the collection even feature hyperlinked endnotes and pop-up annotations, so you don’t have to flip back and forth through any dense books in print. You can even get a citation in plain text, or export it to your RefWorks or EndNote account.

Encountering a problem with Past Masters? Have a question or comment? Feel free to contact the Library by phone at (610) 519-4270 or by text at (610) 816-6222, or email me personally at alexander.williams@villanova.edu.

 

Author Portrait Answers

From left to right and top to bottom: W.B. Yeats, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Adam Smith, Katherine Mansfield, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

Alexander Williams, ’11 MA, is the temporary librarian liaison to the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a research librarian on the Academic Integration and the Information and Research Assistance teams. He is currently pursuing an MS in Library and Information Science at Drexel University’s iSchool.


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Brill´s New Pauly Online: A New Way to Discover the Ancient World

Have you ever heard of Lupercalia? Wanted to know more about the reign of Constantinus, “the Great” emperor of Rome? Do you need to write a paper about trade routes in post-Antiquity? Brill’s New Pauly Online might just be the place for you to start your research. Its interdisciplinary approach, easy-to-use interface, straightforward language and scholarly authority make this online resource an outstanding reference on the ancient world.

Brill’s New Pauly Online has two different sections you can search through at the same time, one on Antiquity and another on the Classical Tradition. As Brill explains:

“The section on Antiquity of Brill´s New Pauly is devoted to Greco-Roman antiquity and cover more than two thousand years of history, ranging from the second millennium BC to early medieval Europe. Special emphasis is given to the interaction between Greco-Roman culture on the one hand, and Semitic, Celtic, Germanic, and Slavonic culture, and ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on the other hand. The section on the Classical Tradition is uniquely concerned with the long and influential aftermath of antiquity and the process of continuous reinterpretation and revaluation of the ancient heritage, including the history of classical scholarship.”

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Brill’s New Pauly Online allows for basic and advanced searches, features cross-references with hyperlinks, a browsable alphabetical index, maps and illustrations, and easy access to names, places, dates and objects from Greek and Roman culture. Plus, you can press Ctrl + F to quickly find relevant key words and phrases in the entries. Once you find what you’re looking for, try scanning the list of bibliographic references at the end of the entry or scroll through an automatically generated “Related Articles” for further topic coverage.

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After completing a quick and simple registration online, there are a series of “personal user tools” that can catapult your research experience into another world. Some of these added features include: the ability to label and “star” entries, email entries to yourself or classmates, and share links on social media (Facebook & Twitter). You can also save your searches and easily return to those lists of results, manage them from “My Account,” and even subscribe to Brill’s RSS Feed to hear when new or revised content is added.

As an additional bonus, try out the “Cite this Page” feature that is found at the end of each entry. If you are using this resource for an assignment, copy and paste this citation to create your reference list in just seconds. You can also use the “export citation” feature to send the bibliographic information to EndNote or RefWorks, or you can even save it as a document in either MLA or Chicago Style.

This resource is highly recommended for literature, history, philosophy, theology/religious studies, classical studies, and art/art history students. Find it by searching for Brill’s New Pauly in the library catalog, then click the “Search online version” link, or you can access it from the philosophy subject guide and the late antiquity: reference works course guide.

Questions or comments? Please email me at alexander.williams@villanova.edu or post a comment below.


RS6126_Alex-Williams-work-stationAlexander Williams, ’11 MA, is the temporary librarian liaison to the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a research librarian on the Academic Integration and the Information and Research Assistance teams. He is currently pursuing an MS in Library and Information Science at Drexel University’s iSchool.


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Dig Deeper – Behind the Mask: What are the Origins of Halloween?

Many of us are probably gearing up for this Thursday, Oct. 31st. Whether you’re buying candy bars in bulk to satiate the impending hordes of trick-or-treaters, dusting off an old fog machine to give your haunted house that final touch of creepy or still struggling to find the right makeup to perfect your zombie/walker costume, we know that Halloween has come. But what is the meaning behind the holiday we’ve grown up with?

Halloween is believed to have been influenced by a pre-Christian harvest festival called Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), which marked the end of the summer and the beginning of the winter season for the Celtic peoples. As the Celts used a lunar calendar and divided the year into these two seasons, Samhain was the first day of the Celtic new year and was celebrated from sunset on Oct. 31st to sunset on Nov. 1st. During this time, it was believed that the souls of the dead, as well as other supernatural entities, were restlessly roaming the earth because the barrier between worlds, or the time between the old and new years, was temporarily broken. Sacrifices, as well as offerings of food and drink, were made to appease these spirits and ensure the Celtic people’s survival throughout the winter. To avoid being recognized by wandering spirits, celebrants would disguise themselves in feathers and fur, a tradition that we still carry on today, albeit primarily in polyester.

Halloween Party (1942), by Philip Guston (1913-1980)

Although Samhain remained popular among the Celtic people throughout the Christianization of Great Britain, the British church may have added a Christian celebration to the calendar on the same date in order to lessen the impact of these pagan customs. As a result, Halloween is also known as Allhallows Eve because it precedes All Hallows, or All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1st). This feast is a solemnity that is held in honor of all the saints, both known and unknown. All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2nd) completes the Christian Triduum of All Hallows, also known as Hallowmas, which is a time to remember departed saints, martyrs and Christians.


Dig Deeper

For more information on Halloween and other festivals, check out the resources available at Falvey Memorial Library:

Trick of Treat: A History of Halloween is a recently published book that traces Halloween from its Celtic origins through popular culture today.

 – Check out Holy Holidays!: The Catholic Origins of Celebration for a fresh new look  at the religious roots of secular holidays like Halloween, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s.

 – Search for holidays, festivals and other celebrations in Gale’s Encyclopedia of Religion.

– Browse our print Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary

Want to learn about the origins of the jack o’ lantern? Check out these two brief articles from History.com:

“History of the Jack o’ Lantern”

“The Halloween Pumpkin: An American History”

Still curious about Halloween or other days of celebration? Leave a question or post a comment below.


RS6126_Alex-Williams-work-stationAlexander Williams, ’11 MA, is the temporary librarian liaison to the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a research librarian on the Academic Integration and the Information and Research Assistance teams. He is currently pursuing an MS in Library and Information Science at Drexel University’s iSchool.

 


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Junot Díaz to Conclude 15th Annual Villanova Literary Festival

junot diazOn Tuesday, Apr. 16, at 7 p.m. in Connelly Center Cinema, critically acclaimed author Junot Díaz will conclude Villanova University’s 15th Annual Villanova Literary Festival with a free reading, book signing and reception.

Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, Díaz made his literary debut with his short story collection Drown (1996), which addresses the brutal and somehow beautiful realities of urban life. By offering a sharp, unflinching glare at life in the margins of modern America, Drown became a best-seller and introduced Díaz as a new, fresh voice to be reckoned with in the world of fiction.

After its success, Díaz took an eleven year hiatus, during which he produced his only novel, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In this multi-generational story, Díaz merges the history of his own birthplace with modern American culture. In doing so, he crosses traditional boundaries of gender, nationality, class and language in order to create an overarching narrative of the struggle and survival so central to the narrative of being human.

His most recent collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her (2012), is on The New York Times Best Seller list and was a National Book Award finalist. It carries the same spirit of his previous works as the character Yunior, who narrates The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and is the predominating voice in Drown, once again becomes the focus in many of these stories about identity, family, romance, literary struggle and multicultural conflict. As with his previous works, Díaz confronts his audience with Spanish words and phrases, which have the effect of either alienating readers or inviting them into the diversity that influences American language and culture today.

Díaz is the recipient of many honors such as a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, a Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Malamud Award and The O. Henry Award, among others. Currently, he is the fiction editor at Boston Review, creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and honorary chairman of the Dream Project. His current work in progress, tentatively entitled Monstro, will hopefully fulfill his dream of becoming an established voice in the science-fiction genre.

During an interview hosted by John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley for Wired.com, Díaz described the work as an “insane novel about a strange invader virus-type thing that takes root in the poorest, hottest places in the world in the near future, and of course one of those places is going to be Haiti.” The novel, he explains, came from “this crazy idea to write a near-future story where these virused-up 40-foot monstrosities are going around eating people, and taking it from there. I’m only at the first part of the novel, so I haven’t really gotten down to the eating, and I’ve got to eat a couple cities before I think the thing will really get going.”

Alexander Williams, ’11 MA, is an intern on the Academic Integration and the Information and Research Assistance teams. He is currently pursuing an MS in Library and Information Science at Drexel University’s iSchool.


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Last Modified: April 15, 2013