Professor Ragen has been a speaker for many groups over the years. He has spoken to both academic and non-academic groups, and was named one of the Missouri Humanities Council's American Mirror speakers. He can be booked as a speaker by contacting inquiries@brianabelragen@net.

Ragen's current presentations:

“My Boy Jack: Rudyard Kipling and the First World War”

Most readers think of India and the Victorian era when Rudyard Kipling comes to mind, but he was in fact a writer who worked well into the twentieth-century, and some of his finest works are a response to the century’s first great calamity, the First World War. This talk describes how Kipling dealt with the war as an author and a man both before and after the word came from France that his only son was “missing, believed killed."

"Tom Wolfe's Place in American literature."

“The Right Stuff,” “The Me Decade,” “Pushing the Envelope,” “Radical Chic”: Tom Wolfe’s phrases have echoed through American culture since the 1960’s. But Wolfe’s influence on American literature has been as much more than a phrase maker. He has changed the way non-fiction is written and challenged the reigning dogmas in literary fiction. At the same time, he has delighted and annoyed readers of all sorts.

"Automobiles and Original Sin: Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood"

“Nobody with a good car needs to be justified,” says Hazel Motes. In this talk Ragen shows that declaration puts the protagonist of Flannery O’Connor’s first novel firmly in a long line of American heroes. What seems to be a grotesque story about “The Church Without Christ”—“Where the lame don’t walk and the blind don’t see and what’s dead stays that way”—turns out to address the central controversy in American culture, the old struggle between the party of hope and the party of memory, which turns on the question of original sin.

"Nice People Don't Sing Hymns: The Transformation of the American Hymnal”

The most notable change in American hymnals in recent years is not the use of “inclusive language”; it is the elimination of references to sin. Drawing examples from the hymnals of several denominations, Ragen explores the theological and esthetic implications of this shift. When words like “wretch” are eliminated even from hymns as well-know as “Amazing Grace,” there is both a loss of poetic vividness and theological rigor. Audiences will find Ragen’s many examples amusing as well as thought-provoking.

What Happened to our Hymnal?

While the hymnal was once a source of stability and common heritage for many Christian churches, in recent decades it has become a subject of discord and controversy. In this presentation Ragen first traces the history of English-language hymnals, showing how late in history they became a part of Christian worship, and then describes the forces that have made their adoption and revision sources of contention in denominations and congregations.

America's Most Popular Books of Poems: The Hymnal

This presentation discusses the American Hymnal—an ideal collection published only in the memories of millions of people—as a book of poems. The presentation includes what poems have made good hymns, which hymns make good poems, and how the two arts, which might be thought of as one and the same, have clashed over the years. The talk includes a consideration of why well-known poets are no longer often found in the hymnals of American churches.
The Poet's Christmas

Perfect for holiday gatherings, this program combines music and readings of poetry to mark the Christmas season. Highlights include Milne’s “King John’s Christmas," Dorothy Parker’s “Prayer for a New Mother," Richard Wilbur’s "Christmas Hymn” and W.H. Auden’s “For the Time Being."