The Literary Aspect of Our Fraternity
by John M. Young, Cornell 1928
In the early days of our Fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi sought students of decided literary tastes. As a result it soon acquired a distinctive literary tradition, which, in a great measure, it has retained. It is unfortunate that the word LITERARY is so often interpreted in a narrow, restricted sense. To many, it seems to call up only the shades of Emerson, Charles Lamb, Walter Pater and other writers whose works are not today among the best sellers. To many, the work LITERARY connotes a tiresome, boring pedantism – alien to the tempo of twentieth-century living.
Actually, the word means more than this. It was never intended to connote narrowness or restrictions by Samuel Eells, who made this statement regarding the founding of Alpha Delta Phi, “In the first place, the new association must differ from others in all points necessary to their exclusion of that jealousy and angry competition which I have always felt to be the bane of college life. In the second place, it must be built on a more comprehensive scale than other societies in regard to its intellectual proportions, providing for every variety of taste and talent and embracing every department of literature and science. In the third place, it must be national and universal in all its adaptations, so as not merely to cultivate a taste for literature or furnish the mind with knowledge; but with a true philosophical spirit looking to the ENTIRE man so as to develop his whole being – moral, social, and intellectual.”
If a word, such as Creative – or a combination of words as, Intellectual Advancement and Creative Expression, would better describe the field of human endeavor herein embraced, one would gladly recommend their adoption or inclusion. However, there word LITERARY, freed from its restricting connotations, adequately describes the intellectually stimulating and broadening force envisioned by our founders. This is particularly true today in those Chapters whose literary programs are honestly regarded as a means of exchanging ideas, of engendering original, logical thinking and of producing creative writing. Today all Chapters seem well aware of our heritage. Most appear willing to carry on and maintain the tradition though the degree to which these desires are put into practice varies from complete passive inactivity in some chapters to programs which are a delight and inspiration in others.
The purposes of the literary tradition, the benefits and results to be expected from it are a heightening and a quickening of interest and enthusiasm in the arts and sciences, in literature and in all fields of creative endeavor. If, through the members, attention to the many opportunities offered by the literary program, they may learn to think more logically, clearly, creatively, if they may learn to write more interestingly and to speak more convincingly whether in conversation or before groups, if they may increase their ability to judge as individuals and to express themselves as individuals rather than parroting the conventional catch-phrases always prevalent on any current topic, if they may be aided in developing inquiring minds, in broadening their own, then our founders aim of “…looking to the ENTIRE man so as to develop his whole being – moral, social and intellectual” may be approached.