Dr. Benjamin Alexander
Dr. Alexander “has been privileged” to teach Dante’s Divine Comedy in a Catholic context to a generation of students at Franciscan University.
“There aren’t many places an undergraduate can do that in the United States,” he says. “And you need to know the Divine Comedy to understand American literature because it’s had such an impact on various American writers.”
Dr. Alexander grew up in Ridge Spring, South Carolina, hearing stories about the Civil War, the American Revolution, and local politician, Senator Strom Thurmond.
“My mother, Louise Alexander, knew Robert Frost, and she always had keen insights that gave me an understanding of history as drama.”
It wasn’t until his senior year at the University of the South that he considered a career in teaching.
“That’s where I really encountered Shakespeare, Faulkner, and I studied with Andrew Lytle, who taught Flannery O’Connor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.”
He earned his PhD in 1979 at the University of Dallas in literature and political philosophy. He did post-doctoral work at the Dominican House of Studies and at Virginia Theological Seminary.
Studying Dante and American Catholic writers influenced Alexander, who was once in Episcopal seminary, to become Catholic in 1992.
Alexander taught at Hillsdale College, Catholic University of America, and George Mason University, and worked as a speechwriter in the George H.W. Bush administration. In 1992, he came to Franciscan, where he chaired the English department and now holds an interdisciplinary appointment. He is completing several books,including Leaving the Dark Wood: Dante and Flannery O’Connor.
Dr. Alexander lives in Weirton, West Virginia. He’s a member of St. Peter’s Church, and he occasionally plays drums for campus events.