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From the Colloquium, September 2013: Lilly Graduate Fellows Edition

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).

Once a year, we focus on the readings that the three active cohorts of Lilly Graduate Fellows discuss.  These Fellows are in their first three years of Graduate school, each semester, the Lilly Graduate Fellow cohorts select readings that cluster around a particular theme.

So, without further ado, here are some of those readings.

The third cohort of Lilly Graduate Fellows, which began graduate school and the program in fall 2010 and who just completed their three year program, read and discussed materials focused on the theme “Scholarship as a Christian Vocation.”  Many of the readings came from classic authors such as William Perkins, Ignatius of Loyola, Christine de Pizan, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, John Wesley, George Herbert, and are bound together in William C. Placher’s Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation, a great reference for primary readings on the subject.  The cohort also read Paul J. Griffith’s commentary on The Song of Songs, George Marsden’s classic work, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, essays by Charles Taylor (“A Catholic Modernity?”) and Rosemary Luling–Haughton (“Transcendence and the Bewilderment of Being Modern”), both in A Catholic Modernity?: Charles Taylor’s Marianist Award Lecture, edited by James Heft. Members of the cohort also brought selections from their own disciplines, including the following:  selections from Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition and John Henry Newman, “What is a University?”; Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, Letter to the Retreat Masters; Stanley Hauerwas and Ralph Wood, “How the Church Became Invisible: A Christian Reading of American Literary Tradition” (Religion and Literature, 38:1, Spring 2006); selections from Tracy Fessenden, Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature; Darin Davis and Paul Wadell, “Tracking the Toxins of Acedia: Re-envisioning Moral Education,” in The Schooled Heart: Moral Formation and American Higher Education, Beaty and Henry, eds.; selections from Joseph Pieper’s classic, Leisure: The Basis of Culture (a work that has circulated among both fellowships for some time); selections from Thomas Chesnes and Samuel Joeckel (eds.), The Christian College Phenomenon; Eric Voegelin, “The Gospel and Culture,” in Voegelin, Published Essays, 1966-1985; Patrick Colm Hogan, “Literature, God, and the Unbearable Solitude of Consciousness” in Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11: 5-6, May-June 2004; Alvin Plantinga, “Advice to Christian Philosophers”; selections from Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed; Bruno Latour, “‘Thou Shall Not Freeze-Frame’ or How Not to Misunderstand the Science and Religion Debate” in Science, Religion, and the Human Experience, ed. James D. Proctor; selections from Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals; selections from W. S. Merwin, “La Pia”; and selections from Erec Rebillard, Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200–450 CE.

Graduate Fellows Cohort 4, whose members completed their second year in the program, read books in fall, 2012, focused on the theme “Realism and Calling,” and spent the semester reading through Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (Pevear translation), which a number of the Graduate Fellow cohorts have done over the summer for summer conferences or across a semester (a number of cohorts have done the same with Augustine’s Confessions and one of the three books from Dante’s Divine Comedy–especially Purgatorio).  Accompanying their reading of The Brothers Karamazov were: Eleonore Stump, “Second-Person Accounts and the Problem of Evil” (Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia, Vol. 57, 2001); Rowan Williams, Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction; Rowan Williams, Ponder these Thing: Praying with Icons of the Virgin, and Ralph Wood, “Ivan Karamazov’s Mistake: A Re-Reading of the Grand Inquisitor” in First Things, Dec. 2002.  The Fellows especially enjoyed the two works by Rowan Williams, both of which have been enjoyed by other Graduate Fellows cohorts.  In spring, 2013, the fourth cohort focused on the theme, “Being a Teacher/Scholar as a Way of Life and as a Calling.”  Readings included: St. Augustine, The First Catechetical Instruction; Stephanie Paulsell, “Writing as a Spiritual Discipline” and Paul Griffiths, “Reading as a Spiritual Discipline” in Gregory Jones and Stephanie Paulsell, eds. The Scope of our Art (two works that have become classics with the Postdoctoral and Graduate Fellows); Susan VanZanten, Joining the Mission; Bonnie Miller-McLemore, “Contemplation in the Midst of Chaos” and Paul Wadell, “Teaching as a Ministry of Hope,” both in Jones and Paulsell, The Scope of our Art; several essays in Teaching as an Act of Faith, ed. Arlin Migliazzo; excerpts from John Henry Cardinal Newman’s The Idea of a University; Aaron Posner “My Name is Asher Lev” (a play adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok), and Andrew Delbanco, College: What It Was, Is and Should Be, which the Postdoctoral Fellows have also read and enjoyed.

Graduate Fellows in Cohort 5 began their three-year fellowship last fall.  As have several of the cohorts, Cohort 5 began the program by focusing on the theme of “Hospitality” in fall, 2012.  Many of the primary source readings from the Christian theological tradition on the subject of hospitality came from Amy G. Oden, And You Welcomed Me, and Benedicta Ward, Trans., The Desert Fathers.  These readings meshed with Christine Pohl, Making Room, Augustine’s Confessions, The Rule of Benedict, the film, Of Gods and Men, and selections from Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me.  The cohort also worked through the Psalms using John D. Witvliet and Martin Tel, eds. Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship.  In the spring, the cohort focused on the theme, “The Intellect and Affections, ´beginning with a favorite of the Graduate Fellows, James Elkins’ Pictures and Tears, in which Elkins grapples with the way the academic study of art history affected his engagement of art at intellectual and emotional levels.  The cohort continued to work through Confessions and other works of the early church while also reading selections from Jean Leclercq’s The Love of Learning and the Desire for God.  The works by Benedictines and Kathleen Norris anticipated their first conference at Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, MN.

Posted by Joe Creech

A New Book on Human Dignity

Imago Dei TalHowardWhat does it mean when we speak of human dignity? What challenges does human dignity confront in our culture today? What is the relationship between contemporary understandings of human dignity and the ancient Christian doctrine of imago Dei, the view that human beings are created in “the image and likeness of God”?

These are the questions that Thomas Albert Howard’s new edited volume Imago Dei: Human Dignity in Ecumenical Perspective, pose.  This new collection of three essays, with an introduction by Howard pursues:

these and related questions in the form of an ecumenical “trialogue” by leading scholars from the three major Christian traditions: John Behr from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Russell Hittinger from the Catholic, and C. Ben Mitchell from the Protestant tradition. The book is the first of its kind to foster an ecumenical conversation around teachings of imago Dei and present-day understandings of human dignity. The three chapter-essays, the editor’s introduction, and the afterword by Lutheran theologian Gilbert Meilaender draw from a wide array of sources, including Scripture, patristic works, ancients creeds, medieval and Thomistic writings, papal encyclicals, Protestant confessional statements, the works of modern theologians, and more.

Imago Dei will serve as an indispensable resource for those wishing to deepen their grasp of the theological bases for Christian views of human dignity, as well as for those who believe that Christ’s words “that they be one” (John 17:21) remain a theological imperative today. The combination of ethical inquiry and ecumenical collaboration makes this timely book a unique and compelling contribution to present-day Christian thought.

This new collection comes out of a program that was partially funded by a grant from the Lilly Fellows Program in the Humanities and the Arts.  The contributors to this volume came together at Gordon College in April 2010 for a Regional Conference, which drew eighty individuals from thirteen colleges and universities attended the one-day event.  Imago Dei is available in paperback and ebook from The Catholic University Press. Go check it out now!

By Mary Beth Fraser Connolly

A Recent Book Review in Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

In the summer of 2010, Seattle Pacific University hosted a Summer Seminar, which is a four-week program sponsored by the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts.  You can read more about Summer Seminars here.  The idea is to bring together a small group faculty from the LFP network for an intensive period of time to develop their research around a certain theme.  The Seattle Pacific University Summer Seminar focused on Gender and Christianity. The result of their time and work is the edited collection Sex, Gender, and Christianity, Priscilla Pope-Levison and John R. Levison, eds.  The book, which was published in 2012, was recently reviewed in Choice.

I like the line in the review: “Classrooms will surely come alive with this little volume; a relevant student-centered education is elegantly unified with essays that have scholarly integrity.”

Sex, Gender, and Christianity, ed. by Priscilla Pope-Levison and John R. Levison. Cascade Books, 2012. 250p bibl index ISBN 1620320150 pbk, $29.00; ISBN 9781620320150 pbk, $29.00. Reviewed in 2013 June CHOICE.

Emerging from the 2010 Lilly Fellows Summer Seminar on Gender and Christianity, this volume gathers provocative and stimulating essays designed to open safe space for conversation about gender and sexuality in the lives of college students, for whom enduring models of patriarchal authority continue to be pitted against progressive forms of feminism. The contributors find creative and indirect methods to open this impasse, which include novel interpretations of a surprisingly wide range of historical texts that depolarize the perennial gender debate in innovative ways. For example, John Levison (Seattle Pacific Univ.) examines the pseudepigraphal Greek Life of Adam and Eve, and discovers an Eve who communicates sympathy, initiative, and autonomy. Mikee Delony (Abilene Christian Univ.) extols the outspoken, feisty life of the unruly wife of Bath in Chaucer’s 14th-century Canterbury Tales. James G. Dixon III (Grove City College) explores the discussion about whether William Shakespeare’s plays reinscribe traditional views of marriage or whether they support “new” (16th-17th century) egalitarian models of marriage based on compatibility and choice. Classrooms will surely come alive with this little volume; a relevant student-centered education is elegantly unified with essays that have scholarly integrity. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. — P. K. Steinfeld, Buena Vista University


By Mary Beth Fraser Connolly

Article on Book, Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation

Over at the Religion in American History blog, historian Mark T. Edwards’ article, “Is there a Christian Approach to History,”  offers some thoughts on Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation, edited by John Fea, Jay Green, and Eric Miller.  Confessing History was a finalist for the 2011 Lilly Fellows Program Book Award.  Read more here.

Added 3.26.13:  John Fea responds to the posting at the Religion in American History blog here at his blog, The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

Posted by Joe Creech

Book Note: Teaching and Christian Practices, Edited by David I. Smith and James K.A. Smith

I would like to note a interesting book that came out last year:  Teaching and Christian Practices:  Reshaping Faith & Learning, edited by David I Smith and James K.A. Smith (Eerdmans, 2011), with a forward by Craig Dykstra and Dorothy C. Bass.  This collection of essays applies ideas from the philosophical, theological, and pedagogical literature of practice to teaching in church-related higher education.  More specifically, the work attempts two interventions in the literature on church-related higher education.  First, as do many such works in the last ten years, Smith and Smith recognize a new narrative for church-related higher education (some call it the “comeback” of church-related higher education) that has moved past the jeremiad tones of Marsden’s Soul of the American University  and Burtchaell’s The Dying of the Light  to recognize a renaissance in the way church-related institutions increasingly draw on their traditions’ theological, liturgical, and practical emphases to address pedagogy, research, and especially the new way religion or spirituality is expressed on both church-related and secular campuses.  Secondly, Teaching and Christian Practices adds another dimension to the dominant emphasis in the literature on integrating the intellectual resources of Christian theology with learning.  This added dimension is to consider the impact of Christian (and secular) reflections on practice.  Drawing on works in this category ranging from Alasdair MacIntyre  (philosophy) to Dorothy Bass and Craig Dykstra (theology) to Etienne Wenger (pedagogy), the contributors to the volume report on ways in which their classroom activities benefit from integrating certain practices from the Christian tradition.  In addition, Paul J. Griffiths offers a reflective essay on the basic project of the book that summarizes, as well, many of his intriguing arguments in the Intellectual Appetite: A Theological Grammar, which explores the classical theological distinction between curiosity and studiousness in the contemporary academic context.

A description of Teaching and Christian Practices from Eerdmans’s website:

Over the past twenty years there has been a ferment of reflection on the integration of faith and learning — yet relatively little notice has been paid to the integration of faith and teaching in the Christian university. In Teaching and Christian Practices twelve university professors describe and reflect on their efforts to allow historic Christian practices to reshape and redirect their pedagogical strategies. Whether using spiritually formative reading to enhance a literature course, table fellowship to reinforce concepts in a pre-nursing nutrition course, or Christian hermeneutics to interpret data in an economics course, the authors present a practice of teaching and learning rooted in the rich tradition of Christian practices — one that reconceives classrooms and laboratories as vital arenas for faith and spiritual growth.

Posted by Joe Creech

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