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UD Draws Thomas More Scholars for Annual Conference

IRVING, Texas (Nov. 4, 2023) — This week, from Nov. 2 to Nov. 4, the University of Dallas will host a conference on Thomas More’s life and writings.

The conference is a project of the Center for Thomas More Studies, an institute housed at UD dedicated to advancing research on the writings and history of St. Thomas More. The most prominent humanist and statesman of the English Renaissance, More was martyred by the administration of King Henry VIII.

More drew the ire of the crown by refusing to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and was beheaded for treason. He was unwilling to swear allegiance to Henry as head of the Church of England. More died with the stalwart final words, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

The Center for Thomas More Studies began in 2000 on More’s birthday, Feb. 7, to celebrate Pope John Paul II’s declaration of Thomas More as “Patron of Statesmen.” Professor of English Gerard Wegemer, PhD, who specialized in More’s work in his doctoral studies at the University of Notre Dame, is the founding director of the center.

Wegemer says the University of Dallas is a perfect home for the study of Thomas More, who was educated in many of the same great texts that make up the UD core.

“More read most of our Core, and he had his children read most of our Core,” Wegemer pointed out. “He was an exemplary parent, intellectual, professional and civic leader whose faith was an integral part of his life.”

Bobby Lueck, BA ’21, a doctoral student of literature in the Institute of Philosophic Studies and a graduate assistant of the center, echoed Wegemer.

“More himself was a great defender of a classical liberal arts education,” Lueck said. “Although More challenged his daughters and sons to grow in their intellectual capabilities, he deemed this growth a waste if not accompanied by the moral virtues.”

The center hosts a yearly conference on More’s life and work, and Wegemer serves on the editorial board of the only peer-reviewed journal focused exclusively on Thomas More studies, Moreana.

For Wegemer, one of the center’s greatest achievements is publishing a one-volume collection of More’s work.

“It took our first 20 years and 20 conferences to be able to publish a text comparable to The Riverside Chaucer and The Riverside Shakespeare that could be used for college and graduate courses: the 1,500-page Essential Works of Thomas More,” Wegemer said.

The center is currently working on new editions of More’s correspondence and translations of his Latin poetry.

For the reader looking to dive into More for the first time, Wegemer recommends the center’s single-volume Thomas More Source Book, which condenses selections from his most famous works. The book offers a look into the vast range of his writings, including letters to his children, treatises on just war theory, and the text of his final interrogation before execution in 1535.

Lueck recommends that the beginning student read carefully More’s most famous work, the political satire Utopia.

“Through it,” Lueck said, “More demonstrates a great control over the use of irony and satire, which he uses to prod his readers to think seriously about human nature and man’s place in society.”

The 23rd annual conference on More will take place from Nov. 2 to Nov. 4 on the University of Dallas campus. The goal of the conference is to draw new and deepened attention to Thomas More’s life and work, one section of his oeuvre at a time. As Lueck puts it, the work is important in part because “it is 500 years too late.”

Mark Rankin of James Madison University will give a keynote lecture on the epistolary disputes of Thomas More and the English reformer William Tyndale, who was executed before completing the first English translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew. The keynote lecture is open to the public at 4 p.m. in Gorman Lecture Center Room C.

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