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Call for Proposals: Transhumanism and the Church

We just learned of an upcoming conference at Samford University.  The conference, “TranshumanisChipInHeadm and the Church: Theological Reflections on Technology and Human Enhancement,” will be hosted by Samford’s Center for Science and Religion and held September 24 to 26, 2015.  The conference will explore the possible responses “of the church to Transhumanism and the technological possibilities for human enhancement that [may be] on the horizon.”  The deadline for proposals is May 1, 2015.

To learn more about the conference, including a list of keynote speakers, see the Center for Science and Religion’s conference website.

From the Colloquium, February 2015

IMG_20150203_142414518_HDRAs the snow mounts and the temperatures dip in Northwest Indiana, the Postdoctoral Fellowship Colloquium begins to heat up.  As noted in previous posts, each semester’s colloquium has a particular theme.  Last term, we concentrated on the “changing conditions of the academy, including church-related colleges and universities,” and posed the question: “how might spiritual perspectives and practices drawn from Christian faith enrich the life of scholarship, teaching, and service?”  The Spring Semester shifts to a different question: “How might practices and perspectives from Christian faith and tradition contribute to teaching and scholarship in the contemporary academy?”  To help us answer this question, we return to some favorites of past years, including Tobias Wolfe and Flannery O’Connor.  We introduce some new readings from Oliver Donovan and a selection of papers given at last June’s Postdoctoral Reunion Conference.

We began in January by reading two short stories by Tobias Wolfe, “In the Garden of the North
American Martyrs” and “Bullet in the Brain” from Our Story Begins.  These two stories provide some dark humor to help us consider whether the academy is as cruel and unfeeling as it appears in “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs.”  Wolfe also prods us to wonder if the academic life truly draws individuals like the author’s main character, Andres, who cannot grasp the reality in front of him in “Bullet in the Brain.”

From Wolfe we moved to Oliver Donovan, reading “Moral Communication” from Self, World, and Time: Ethics as Theology, volume 1, and “Possessing Wisdom,” from The World in Small Boats: Sermons from Oxford.  Here, we looked closely at what we do as teachers, the power we hold (or not) in the classroom, how we relate to our students and what if any role the university plays in shaping the morality and virtues of our students.  A light subject for a chilly Monday afternoon, for sure.

Next we tackled Flannery O’Connor and “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” from Mystery and Manners and “The Enduring Chill” from The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor.  (This latter text seemed appropriate considering we faced blizzard conditions in Valparaiso.)  Our conversations this week turned to the nature and authenticity of individual talents.  Of course, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” did produce a temporary tangential discussion of grading papers and the uneven “gifts” of student-writers.

Our most recent colloquium was a special treat: Andrew White, Associate Professor of Theatre at Valparaiso University, led our discussion of a selection of short plays by Samuel Beckett.  Professor White is currently directing An Evening of Short Plays by Beckett.   Having read a selection from The Collected Shorter Plays, we will attend a performance.

Valparaiso University and the Postdoctoral colloquium will shortly have its spring break and our Monday afternoon meetings will suspend until the middle of March.  When we gather next, we will take up a few of the papers from the Postdoctoral Fellows Reunion Conference.  We will discuss spirited inquiry, the state of Humanities, and the current condition of contingent faculty and alternative academic careers all through the lens of Mark Schwehn’s Exiles from Eden. All the papers were written and presented by former Lilly Postdoctoral Fellows last June.  After that, we will read and discuss the reflections of the current fellows as we conclude the 2014-2015.

The Spring Semester and the Postdoctoral Colloquium has gotten off to a good start. As usual, as we seek to answer the question: “How might practices and perspectives from Christian faith and tradition contribute to teaching and scholarship in the contemporary academy?” we end up raising more questions.  Of course, that is the point.  Until next time, happy reading!

Posted by Mary Beth Fraser Connolly

Save the Date!: LFP Regional Conference

One of the programs of the Lilly Fellows Program is our Regional Conferences.  The LFP provides grants to fund a variety of programs tied to our mission to “to renew and enhance the connections between Christianity and the academic vocation at church-related colleges and universities.”  Regional Conferences, according to our website:

encourage examination of topics of special significance to faculty, administrators, and students at a particular institution or group of institutions, or matters of special intellectual concern to faculty and others in Christian higher education. The focus, character, and constituency of the conference may vary to suit the needs of the applicant, within the general guidelines listed above.

While Regional Conferences can be flexible in topic, “priority is given to applications for programs that connect representatives from campuses within a particular geographical region.”

We have two Regional Conferences coming up in this year and in early January 2016.  The first is Gordon College’s Islam in the Classroom: Challenges and Opportunities of Teaching about Islam in a Post 9/11 World, a one-day conference on September 21, 2015.  For more information on this conference, including speakers, see Gordon’s website.

The second conference will be hosted by Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY January 28 to 29, 2015.  Georgetown College just announced its Save the Date for its up-coming conference, Discerning Academic Vocation in a Contested Religious Tradition. For more information see Georgetown College’s conference website.

From the Colloquium, November, 2014

Since 2006, the Lilly Fellows Program Director has published a “From the Colloquium” column about four times per year. The idea behind this column is to share some of the common readings from the colloquia of the Lilly Postdoctoral Fellows Program and the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program.

Common readings and group discussion have been integral to the Lilly Fellows Program’s (LFP) fellowship programs from their start over twenty years ago.  First with the Lilly Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship program at Valparaiso University starting in 1992 and then with the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program in 2008, Fellows have encountered readings intended to engage Christian thought and practice as they intersect the tasks of teaching and scholarship that make up the work we do in the academy. The readings address these issues on both the personal and institutional level, examining our individual practices as scholars as well as those of our academic institutions (with, of course, a special emphasis on those institutions of higher learning that connect to a church-related mission).  Click here and here for a partial list of readings over the years; you can click here for recent “From the Colloquium” columns in this blog.

In the fall of 2014, the weekly colloquium of the residential Lilly Postdoctoral Fellows is addressing the question, “Given the changing conditions of the academy, including church-related colleges and universities, how might spiritual perspectives and practices drawn from Christian faith enrich the life of scholarship, teaching, and service?”  The idea behind this question is to think about the ways we have been shaped by educational institutions in both personal and professional ways.  Stepping back, we want to examine this formation through he lenses of both secular and sacred writing on what it means to flourish—as people and professionals (or whether we should even make that distinction).

To start this line of inquiry, the colloquium began, as it has over the past several years, with a discussion of Robert Frost’s poem, “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” which poses core questions about what does or ought to motivate our labor and sense of vocation—is it justice? pleasure? need? From there, the colloquium has considered texts that address how these ideas find expression in our work and, especially, in our institutions.  We examined sections of Andrew Delbanco’s College: What It Was, Is and Should Be, which offers, from a non-religious point of view, reflections on the value and meaning of the liberal arts, much of which is based on the borrowed capital of the earlier Christian missions of American institutions of higher education.  From Delbanco we explored Evangelical, Calvinist, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran approaches to higher education.  For the first three perspectives we discussed The Future of Christian Learning: An Evangelical and Catholic Dialogue with Mark Noll and James Turner, edited by Thomas A. (Tal) Howard (Lilly Fellow ’97-’99); for the Lutheran point of view we read Mark Schwehn’s “Lutheranism and the Future of the University” along with essays by Mel Piehl and Michael Beaty in the special issue of The Cresset that focused on Schwehn’s Exiles from Eden.

While these readings examined this question from an institutional perspective, in the second half of the semester we focused on how we as individual scholars are formed by and encounter these ideals and practices.  Many of the works examine concepts such as hospitality, grace, sacrament, attention, leisure, and transcendence.  As in most years, we read Simone Weil’s “The Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God,” in Waiting for God, and Stephanie Paulsell’s (Lilly Fellow ’93-’95) “Writing as a Spiritual Discipline” in The Scope of our Art, L. Gregory Jones and Paulsell, eds.  Current Lilly Fellow Katherine Kennedy Steiner led us in a discussion of the writing and music of Hildegard of Bingen (in particular her Ordo Virtutum), along with an essay on Hildegard by Margot Fassler, “Composer and Dramatist: ‘Melodious Singing and the Freshness of Remorse’” in Barbara Newman, ed., Voice of the Living Light:  Hildegard of Bingen and Her World.  We then read selections from Kathleen Norris’ Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace, followed by Marilynne Robinson’s, “Psalm Eight,” in The Death of Adam.  We will round out the semester with Joseph Pieper’s Leisure:  The Basis of Culture, and the film, Babette’s Feast.  We recommend all these works to you for your own reading or for group discussion on these topics.

By Joe Creech

Books, Vocation, & Education – Pedagogical Wisdom from Caryn Riswold at Patheos

A new post by Caryn Riswold on her blog, Feminismxianity, talks about the importance of introducing books to our students in a thoughtful and purposeful way.  Caryn’s post reviews several books that she has recently encountered that discuss higher education.  She also makes note of a recent call for nominations for the biennial LFP Book Award.  Go check out what wonderful things Caryn has to say.

Post by Mary Beth Fraser Connolly


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