Retired English Professor to showcase Tuscany’s influence on European authors

Published 11:12 am Friday, March 24, 2023

There was never a day during her 37 years on the faculty at LaGrange College, Dr. Nina Dulin-Mallory said, when she didn’t wake up wanting to teach.

“I could not wait to get into the classroom,” the much-admired professor said, describing her “immeasurable admiration for students” that led her to pursue engagement and “treasure finding common ground” with them.

Now, a little more than a year into retirement, Dr. Dulin-Mallory aims to find common ground with a different group of learners. On Monday, March 27, she’ll give the closing lecture of LaGrange College’s 13th annual 3D Journeys series, speaking at 10 a.m. in Callaway Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to anyone with an interest in learning.

This year’s travel/lecture series has focused on Tuscany, birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and Dr. Dulin-Mallory’s presentation will highlight the significant role of Tuscan poets. The lecture title sets the stage: “Chaucer and Shakespeare Send Roses: Their Thanks to the Poets of Tuscany.”

The goal, she said, will be to engage the lifelong learners in the 3D audience by showing how the celebrated poets of Tuscany – especially Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch — contributed a spark in the early Renaissance that changed and influenced the literature of Northern Europe.

The works of Shakespeare and Chaucer, among others, she explains, “show they were inspired and influenced by the Tuscan poets” who came decades, or as much as a century, earlier. Petrarch, for example, wrote an extensive sonnet cycle and is considered by many to be the “father” of the sonnet, a form that evolved and was elevated by Shakespeare. Bocaccio’s masterwork, The Decameron, is an impressive series of 100 tales, stories told by young travelers who flee Florence to escape the plague of 1348.

“Who knows if Chaucer would have bothered to write the Canterbury Tales without Boccaccio?” Dr. Dulin-Mallory wonders.

The professor’s abiding interest in Medieval literature was triggered early when she was an English major at Clemson University in the late 1960s. Her favorite professor specialized in Medieval literature and opened her eyes to the beauty of it.  In her mid-30s, she returned to school, earning a master’s degree in education from LaGrange College and then a Ph.D. in medieval literature from Auburn University.

Though no longer in the classroom, Dr. Dulin-Mallory’s influence on LaGrange College is still deeply felt. She served as Chair of the English Department twice, as President of the Faculty Assembly twice and as Faculty Representative on the Board of Trustees, also twice.

In the late 1990s, she led a three-year process to develop and initiate an Honor Code and Council. The framework of LaGrange College’s Honor Code has since been adopted by many institutions, and Dr. Dulin-Mallory served a term as president of the board of the International Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University. Her career included multiple teaching awards, including Vulcan Materials Teacher of the Year and the United Methodist Church Excellence in Teaching Award.

Dr. Dulin-Mallory has seen firsthand the benefit of travel in broadening understanding and expanding world views. She led several student groups abroad, including two trips to Italy, and predicts the May trip to Tuscany, hosted by LaGrange College President Susanna Baxter and First Gentleman Mark Huffman, will be meaningful for the more than 30 3D travelers participating.

Meanwhile, she’s eager to share ideas and information from “a life of having studied it” with eager learners at the closing lecture.

“I hope I can expand and inspire and excite an audience beyond my undergraduate teaching. And I will try to be funny,” she said.

The best part?  “There are no tests, so I can cherry-pick the most revealing and most interesting ideas.”

Another highlight of the morning will be the announcement of the topic for travel and lectures for the college’s 14th 3D Journeys series, set January through March in 2024.

“We look forward to an outstanding closing lecture for 2023 and are excited about the plans for another year of ‘discovering, discussing and developing’ through 3D Journeys,” said Ann Beason, co-chair of the volunteer committee that organizes the program with support from Martha Pirkle, Director of Alumni and Community Relations.