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Stephanie Paulsell on the Lilly Fellows Program

Stephanie Paulsell, Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies at Harvard Divinity School, reflects on her time as a Lilly Postdoctoral Fellow and on Mark Schwehn’s Exiles from Eden in The Christian Century.  Read more here.

Posted by Joe Creech

A Little Time Away

No, I will not launch into Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” Rather it is that time of the summer when the LFP office closes up shop for a couple weeks as we (the office) take some time out of said office.  We try to stagger when we are away, so we are not all gone at once.  But, we close down our computers, shut up our blinds, put our out-of-office message on our emails, and water our plants in the vain hope that they will still be alive upon our return.  The trick is shutting ourselves down from the day-to-day activities of the business of the LFP.  (There is always an email we could answer, a conference planning detail to check on, or something.) This, I think, is the trick of everyone working everywhere. (I do not claim it to be a problem unique to us.)  It is hard to stop.

John Singer Sargent, Girl Fishing

John Singer Sargent, Girl Fishing

Academics, on the other hand, look to their summers as the potential time to turn their attention to their research projects, that article they wanted to finish, or books they wanted to read in preparation for a course they wish to try out in the coming fall or spring. Shutting off, taking time away, going fishing, if you will, is difficult.  Those in the classroom have all those students, that correcting, class prep, and committee meetings to occupy them during the school year.  Administrators have an equal number of items on their To Do Lists during the year as well.  The summer, that Mythical Summer of Productivity calls us all.  This will be the summer I do everything that I intended to do! (Ha.)

But we try, because time with our spouses, partners, friends, children, parents, nieces, nephews, dogs, a really good non-academic mystery, whatever, is a good thing.  Time away, even if it is a long weekend, even if one finds herself dipping into work while on vacation (guilty as charged), if one is lucky to get that break, is helpful.

So we, the LFP office, have hung up our Gone Fishing sign as of today. We will be back in business before you know it.


By Mary Beth Fraser Connolly

From the Colloquium

From the Colloquium” reports on the colloquium on vocation, Christianity, and higher learning that takes place in the two fellowship programs in the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts:  the two-year, residential Postdoctoral Fellowship at Valparaiso University, and the three-year fellowship for current graduate students, the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program.

In this final edition for academic year 2013/2014, I’ll report on a few works covered by the Postdoctoral Fellows since our last column in February, 2014.

Two works we’ve been reading for a few years now in the Postdoctoral Fellows’ colloquium are Daniel F. Chambliss, “The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Repot on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers,” (Sociological Theory 7 [Spring, 1989], 70-86) and portions of Atul Gewande’s Complications.  Both focus on different aspects of “practice” in relation to learning.   Both Gawande and Chambliss downplay or dismiss the concept of “talent” as they insist that “skill can be taught.”  Both stress the importance of practice, repetition, and the degree to which how one practices impacts success.  Certainly, cutting through water or flesh is not exactly the same thing as understanding an argument or text, but the Fellows have considered how this concepts might impact learning and teaching “practices” as well as what we expect from or how we evaluate student ability and success.

A new text in the Postdoctoral Fellows’ colloquium this year is David Foster Wallace’s commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005 (we also read several of Wallace’s course syllabi, see here and here).  There is much to enjoy and consider in the address, and I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.  Though wide ranging, it focuses on a central analogy that education in the liberal arts—in its moral and even religious dimensions—should enable students to identify and understand their unexamined assumptions much in the way a fish would need to identify and understand water.  If this analogy sounds obvious and even trite, Wallace teases out its implications in novel ways to suggest that one of the things of which we are unaware is our predisposition to worship things.  If this is true, educations enables us to choose our objects of worship—to choose what ultimately gives our lives meaning.

Along with reading parts of the ever popular What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bains, the Postdoctoral Fellows colloquium read and viewed a Valparaiso University production of Tom Stoppard’s play, Arcadia.  Discussed also by one of the Lilly Graduate Fellows cohorts, Arcadia—generally considered one of the finest plays from the last half of the twentieth century—offers a humorous and spot on examination of what education and the academic vocation is or should be about.  At the center is the tension between intellection and passion as it relates to what it means to know something as a scholar or teacher, a theme the colloquium has touched on at a number of points this year, especially as it relates to art.  From this central point, the play branches out to the nature of time or temporality, poetic or logical truth, and the nature of truth or knowing itself.  If you’ve not been able to enjoy this work, please treat yourself as you put together your summer reading (or viewing) list.

Posted by Joe Creech

Call For Papers, Baylor Symposium on Faith & Culture: Faith and Film

We announce a call for papers for the Baylor Symposium on Faith & Culture, co-sponsored by the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion.  For more information, visit the conference website here.

BSFC ButtonOver the past century, cinema has become the defining medium of Western culture, occupying the role that theater and the novel played in earlier generations. Recent advances in communication technologies allow films to reach global audiences on a vast and previously unimaginable scale.

Christian religious themes have been critically important to film from the earliest days. The cinema has produced vast biblical epics and intimate spiritual studies, sensitive biographical explorations and provocative revisions of Scripture, and many sentimental expressions of popular piety. Questions of faith are hardly confined to films that are explicitly religious; rather, these themes permeate all genres of film, often in subtle and unexpected ways. represents a vast resource for religious exploration and debate. Film, after all, is a medium appreciated, even loved, by people who would not normally be open to religious messages. And, although the scholarly study of film is a rich field, issues of faith are still underplayed. All too often, both secular-minded critics and Christian viewers routinely miss the varieties of ways—good and bad—in which faith appears in film.

The 2014 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, Faith and Film, invites exploration of the place of Christian faith in cinema, past and present. Investigations need not be limited to explicitly religious works, or even films with overtly religious themes. Presentations are welcome that examine the diversity of expressions of faith and its questions across genres and in both English-language and international works. This is not a forum for scholars of film only; we seek reflection from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives. Presentation proposals are welcome from specialists in film, including directors, screenwriters, and actors, as well as those in communications, philosophy, theology, biblical studies, foreign language studies, political science, literature, the arts, sociology, psychology, business, and other cross-disciplinary areas.

Proposals for individual papers, panel discussions, responses to current books, and film shorts may be submitted via the online form at Please share news of this announcement with your colleagues via e-mail and social media. We hope to see you at Faith and Film in the fall.

Posted by Joe Creech

Practicing Affection in the Academy – A Crosspost from Vitae

s200_robert.elderEarlier  today, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s online website, Vitae, published an article by one of our former Postdoctoral fellows, Bob Elder.  Elder examines in his article “Practicing Affection in the Academy,” both the trouble with MOOCs and the challenges of life as an adjunct.  What makes this essay truly worth reading is that Elder goes further than simply joining the fray.  He writes:

But while it’s easy to say “I told you so” to innovators and administrators [regarding MOOCs and labor issues with adjuncts], and deeply satisfying to see the failures of our academic labor system laid out with verve and wit, these stories also highlight a failure on the part of those pointing fingers to present a compelling case for why these developments in higher education were misguided in the first place.

Elder asks us to consider: “Why is it that we do what we do in the way that we do it?”  Go see what he has to say and how, with a little bit of help from Wendell Berry, we might find some “affection” in how we conduct the business of higher education.

Posted by Mary Beth Fraser Connolly


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