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