Sept. 28, 2018




MSU Billings Library announces fall lecture series

Five-part weekly series, “Monsters!” begins Oct. 2



University Communications and Marketing, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS—The MSU Billings library is excited to announce its fall lecture series, “Monsters!”, a series based on the monsters of history and how they have influenced society over the years.


The weekly, five-part series will take place Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m., beginning on Oct. 2. They will be held in MSUB Library room 148; each lecture is free of charge and open to the public.


“The purpose of the lecture series is to be free, fun, entertaining, educational, and informative. The Library likes to partner, showcase, and share the wealth of knowledge that exists in the high-caliber, talented faculty here at MSU Billings,” commented Darlene Hert, Library Director. 


The Monsters! Lecture series will also feature a guest speaker, Jay M. Smith, Ph.D., Full Professor of History from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Smith is both a nationally and internationally known scholar.   


Jen Lynn, Ph.D., MSUB Associate Professor of History and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Center will begin the series on Oct. 2 with her presentation, “Making Monsters: The Devil, Demons, and Witches of Early Modern Europe.” Lynn will focus on witches as one of the most recognizable “monsters” and how they have played a role in history. Lynn will also examine the significance of European society’s actions towards “witches” as a way to maintain social stability and place blame on women of certain statuses.


During Lynn’s time at MSUB, she has developed into an accomplished Associate Professor in the Department of History. Through her several awards, publications, and grants for her work, she has planted deep roots at MSUB and the community of Billings. After graduating from MSUB in 2005, Lynn went on to obtain her M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), graduating in August of 2012. From there she returned to Billings to pursue teaching, research, and became director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Center at MSUB in 2013. Lynn also teaches a course, HSTR 487: Monsters in Modern European History: Witches, Vampires, and Zombies, which explores the history of science, religion, the body, gender, and how and why monsters emerge at a particular historical moment.


On Oct. 9, MSUB Assistant Professor of History Joseph D. Bryan, Ph.D., will present, “Divine or Natural? Marvelous or Deviant? Monstrous Bodies in European History, 1500-1700.” His talk will focus on land and sea creatures from overseas, the development of “monstrous” creatures through reproductive defects, and the perceptions of “hermaphrodites” in terms of their social deviance. Bryan will look to answer the questions, “What did it mean to be a monster in early-modern Europe?”, “Where was the line between the natural and unnatural?”, and “From what sources did Europeans draw knowledge of monsters?”


Bryan has been teaching at MSUB as a professor since 2012 and has been granted several awards including a faculty excellence award from the university in 2014. Similar to Lynn, mentioned above, Bryan is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, holding a Ph.D. with concentrations on Early-Modern France, History of Science, Atlantic History, and Intellectual History. Prior to coming to MSUB in 2012, Bryan taught at Chapel Hill as a doctoral student, furthering his knowledge and expertise in history. 


The series will continue on Oct. 16 with a presentation by Jay M. Smith, Ph.D., Full Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His talk stems from his 2011 book, Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast, which garnered nation-wide attention (in academic and National Public Radio circles) and award recognition. His book received the Katherine Briggs Folklore Prize (UK) in 2011 as well as the “Best Cryptozoology Books of 2011” “Imagining the Monstrous in Eighteenth Century France: The Case of the Beast of the Gévaudan” will explore the knowledge and speculation of monsters during early-modern Europe, highlighting a series of wolf-related deaths that led the public to believe in the presence of a monstrous beast ravaging through the area. Smith will look into why these assumptions were made and how these beliefs caused societal state to teeter between order and disorder. He has been a Full Professor of History at UNC since 2004, garnering numerous honors and grants for research in his field. In addition to his years of experience as a professor, Smith has been involved in teaching at Chapel Hill since 1990, serving six years as an assistant professor and eight years as an associate professor. Also experienced in writing and the creation of publications, Smith has written many books, articles, and reviews, several being on the topic of monsters and beasts in history.


On Oct. 23, Rachael Waller, Ph.D., MSUB Associate Professor of Education and Melanie Reaves, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Education will present, “Let’s Talk About the Snuffleupagus in the Room: The Influence of Monsters in Children’s Social Worlds.” Their lecture will focus on the popular children’s show, “Sesame Street”, and how it has shaped young people’s social lives. They will present several videos to elaborate on how the show has created a shared standard for the everyday attitudes of each of its viewers.


Both Waller and Reaves are experienced in the area of education and are excited to present on this topic. Waller was presented with a faculty excellence award at the 2018 ceremony for the impressive work that she has done since she joined the MSUB community in 2011. She also has served as the National President of the Organization of Teacher Educators in Literacy board.


The series will conclude on Oct. 30 with Professor of Biological and Physical Sciences James Barron’s presentation, “Cryptozoology – The Search for Monsters: Critical Thinking and the Probability of Unique Existence.” James Barron, Ph.D., will explore well-known monster-like creatures such as the Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch to elaborate on the concept of cryptozoology, the study involving creatures that have not been proven to exist.


Barron has been known by many as the “Professor of Creepy Crawly Things” for many years at MSUB. He was granted a Cox Fellowship award for excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences at the ceremony in 2008 and continues to advocate for the university and for his students.


Although everyone has their own unique perspective on monsters, the goal of this particular series is to educate listeners on their role in history, and how society’s perceptions have changed over the years.


“One of the goals of the library lecture series is to welcome and invite the greater Billings community to campus. People around campus as well as the community look forward to the Library Lecture Series,” said Hert. “They can’t wait to find out what’s coming up next. A lot of people in the community tell us that they plan their social calendar around the Library Lecture Series.”


For more information, contact Library Director Darlene Hert at 406-657-1655 or