Skip to content

Lilly Network Writers in New Issue of The Cresset

The Cresset: A Review of Literature, the Arts, and Public Affairs

 Vol. LXXXI, No. 3

Dear Lilly Network friends,

Greetings from Valparaiso! The latest issue of the Cresset is now online, we wanted you to know about several pieces from LFP-connected authors: Mark Schwehn’s From Faith and Learning to Love and Understanding: A Possible Future Agenda for Church-Related Higher Education, Caryn Riswold’s Holy Recognition and the #MeToo Movement, and Tal Howard’s Death of a Business. See the full contents at our website.

Happy reading,
Heather Grennan Gary
Editor
Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996). Ten Virgins, 1979.
Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996). Ten Virgins, 1979.
Used with permission from the Brauer Museum of Art.

From the Colloquium

During spring 2018, the Lilly Postdoctoral Fellows at Valparaiso University have engaged in deep consideration of the purpose and character of liberal education, and how their understanding of these things has been shaped and changed by readings and experiences. Part of the discussion involves determining to what extent we can and should read our texts charitably, versus some other kind of reading. Moreover, how can we lead our students to a similar openness to what they read?

In the classroom, many balances must be achieved. One important balance is between the extent to which the teacher offers a specific, authoritative point of view, and the extent to which the students are allowed to question and put forth alternative (possibly even suspect) interpretations of texts a teacher knows very well. What do we do when the plans we have for a course are derailed by student questions and insights arising from different interests and interpretive frameworks? Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic, which details his Bard College course on The Odyssey, and his father’s auditing of that course, has been a good source of reflection along these lines.

Other important questions have arisen from readings that have highlighted how liberal education contributes to alleviating suffering, both of others and oneself. Borrowing from Stephanie Paulsell’s 2009 talk to a group of Lilly Graduate Fellows (“Ulysses’ Mad Flight: Anxiety and the Intellectual Life”), the group considered the challenges, for a Christian teacher, of committing fully to the sort of exploration Dante exhibits in the Divine Comedy. Dante meets Ulysses in the Inferno and ends up drowning him, Paulsell describes, because Ulysses’ never-ending quest seems not to match up with the horizons of Dante’s religious commitments. It’s the question of how porous the boundaries are between Athens and Jerusalem—crucial for understanding what and how we teach students.

Cassandra Nelson’s “Bracing for Impact” approaches liberal education from the perspective of a trauma survivor and considers the usefulness of texts in achieving some kind of healing for oneself. Like Paulsell, Nelson recommends the unfettered pursuit of truth as a way of setting us free—in this case, free from traumatic memories. Thus, we find in liberal education a way forward through difficult emotional terrain, as well as a means of intellectual growth that allows us to understand and care for others more deeply.

The role of history and memory in academic work and reconciliation has been an important element of the discussion. Thomas Albert (“Tal”) Howard’s current work on the history of Bosnia, with its multiple religious traditions, gives insight into some of the conditions for reconciliation. Howard suggests that historians have an important role to play in forging a lasting peace in this region, as people need to be able to narrate and discuss the past in order to work for a future. The group considered an actual course syllabus constructed by Howard for his Valparaiso University course “A Moral History of the 20th Century,” and he led the group in a discussion of how the course was put together, why certain texts were chosen, how he presented the importance of the topic. It was a good opportunity to consider the humanities teacher’s responsibilities and burdens when presenting the complexities of conflict and suffering.

Posted by Joseph Goss

2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture

2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture

Stewardship of Creation

Quick Facts

·  Dates: Thursday, October 25-Saturday, October 27

·  Location: Baylor University, Waco, Texas

·  Deadline for Proposals: July 1, 2018

·  Web Site: www.baylor.edu/ifl/StewardshipOfCreation

Conference Description and Call for Proposals

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. … And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. … Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”

(Genesis 1:1; 1:31; 2:15)
From its opening pages, the Bible enjoins stewardship of God’s creation as fundamental to humankind’s role as the pinnacle of God’s creative activity. From tilling gardens to building cities, humans bear a unique responsibility as inheritors of creation to nurture, conserve, and develop God’s gift for the common good of all creatures. Far from being a modern development, Christian environmental care is rooted in theology of creation. In the same way, the command to love one’s neighbor requires attention to our world, its resources, and the ways in which we live together in it. Care for creation is a response to the conviction that the earth is the Lord’s, and all creation is being reconciled to its Creator.

Taking as its theme “Stewardship of Creation,” the 2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture will consider the opportunities and challenges for people of faith as they observe the divine mandate to care for creation. What resources does the Christian tradition offer regarding management of the environment and the wise use of natural resources? How do religious accounts of God, creation, justice, and human flourishing shape our embrace and use of technology that alters for good and ill our world and the lives of every creature in it? How might Christians work with others to reimagine the human relationship to the earth? Finally, what might faithful stewardship of creation look like in the coming decades?

Join us in exploring these questions and more during the 2018 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, “Stewardship of Creation,” on October 25–27.

Proposals for individual papers, panel discussions, and responses to current books are welcome. Abstracts of no more than 750 words should be submitted by July 1, 2018 online at www.baylor.edu/ifl/StewardshipOfCreation.

Possible topics include:

·  Scientific perspectives on stewarding creation

·  Issues of policy and international law

·  Business and environmental initiatives

·  Moral philosophy and the environment

·  Biblical and theological reflections on the environment

·  Literature and creation care

·  Film, media, and environmentalism

·  The religious roots of environmentalism

·  Environmental change and its impact on history

·  Ecumenical approaches to creation care

·  Socio-cultural issues and the environment

·  Stewardship and justice

·  Sustainability in agriculture and food production

·  Engineering sustainability

·  Cities and the environment

·  Congregations and creation care

To see videos of plenary lectures and panel sessions from previous conferences, please visit THE IFL VIMEO PAGE

From the Colloquium

The Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts sponsors two fellowship programs: a Postdoctoral and a Graduate Fellowship program. Both of these involve the Fellows in an ongoing colloquium, for vigorous discussion and debate about issues of vocation and higher learning in a Christian context. Here is a peek into what the current Postdoctoral Fellows are engaging with right now.

Overall, the weekly gatherings of the fall 2017 colloquium have pursued this question: “How might practices and perspectives from Christian faith and tradition contribute to our understanding and practice of the academic vocation?” Going back to some of the key texts from which the Lilly Fellows Program draws its inspiration, the group has  considered the meaning of Christian teaching when a Weberian view of the academic vocation still exercises a powerful influence. Max Weber’s “Science as a Vocation” and Mark Schwehn’s Exiles from Eden have given the group an opportunity to discuss whether the values held and sustained in the Christian tradition have a place in the academy, and how they might be brought to bear on academic learning in general.

A selection from Russell Muirhead’s Just Work and Robert Wuthnow’s “The Changing Nature of Work in the United States: Implications for Vocation, Ethics, and Faith” led the group into a discussion of the realities of the world we work in, and prompted consideration of whether our own situation in the academy differs from the larger work world described by these authors. What pressures do we face? How might we think about the various calls upon our time, and the shrinking demand for some kinds of intellectual work? Further, with Muirhead, the question arose of the extent to which academic work forms the person who does it, in ways both expected and unexpected. What abilities or habits do we develop from the very nature of the work we do? Both of these works force the reader to think about the limits of our own agency: issues of justice, economics, relationships, health, and accidents of birth, for example, all factor into how we discover and work within the paths of vocation presented in the academy.

Richard Russo’s short story “Horseman” gave rise to lively discussion! Russo’s characters leave some of us uncomfortable. They face many academic and personal challenges that, we have to admit, are not far from our own experiences—and seem to remain unsolved. This is a work that challenges us to think about gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and the subtle ways these can be perpetuated in academic life. It also invites reflection on how to exhibit one’s authentic self in one’s work, in the face of the risks involved, and the constraints under which we labor.

Next, the colloquium considered subjects not often juxtaposed. Academic study and teaching are connected to discipline and prayer, according to Simone Weil (“Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God”) and Stephanie Paulsell (“Writing as a Spiritual Discipline”) Paulsell’s suggestion that writing can deepen our life in community connected well with Weil’s notion that the faculty of attention, as developed in study of all different sorts, was important for service to God and one’s neighbor. In fact, both of these authors grant an important nobility to academic study, as they see it leading far beyond the classroom. Paulsell reminds us that writing can be a spiritually transformative activity in which words can be offered to others for their good; Weil suggests that all study, if approached in the proper attitude, increases the capacity to attend to others’ needs.

However, Paul Griffiths’ essay “From Curiosity to Studiousness: Catechizing the Appetite for Learning” identified a Christian ambivalence toward learning and raised the question of how to balance “prophetic” and “pastoral” teaching modes. Should we foster curiosity? Should we foster studiousness? How does—and should­—one lead to the other? Griffiths’ work also led the group to consider the role and interest of Christians in the practices of the disciplines and how they relate to each other, and the relative importance of learning outcomes. Griffiths also makes the provocative claim Christian influence in higher learning is felt in ways that can be traced back to Christian liturgical practices.

Amy and Leon Kass’s “What’s Your Name?,” along with Genesis 2 and Ursula LeGuin’s “She Unnames Them” helped us into the many questions raised by the traditions we are given to receive, work within, and alter. What does it mean to “name” something or someone? What dangers lie in the act of naming, such that naming, and the work of tradition might need to be undone? How does tradition help us view our possible futures? Finally, how does naming relate to knowing?

The poet Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss distinguishes primarily self-loving art from art that loves outwardly, which we considered on its own and also refocused on broader academic pursuits of teaching, writing, editing, and scholarship. One important question was how our devotion to our academic work relates to the call that other people place on our lives—our responsibilities to family, students, even God. Wiman also calls attention to a source of tension in the artist’s life, between the need to fight despair with self-expression, born of self-knowledge, and the trap into which self-love can lead us. Can this be a problem for the academic, as well?

Concluding with Abraham Joshua Heschel’s influential classic The Sabbath is a good way to consider, again, whether work ought to be the primary source of one’s identity. Rabbi Heschel suggests that most of our time is spent conquering space, and that we tend to lose the sense of the sacredness of time represented by the Sabbath. Although work is necessary, so is rest—and the latter is sanctified at the very creation of the world. Do we have a specifically academic problem of time? If so, what (Sabbatarian) practices might help us regain a celebratory experience of time? How might we gain an awareness of time that keeps with God’s own Sabbath, and what would that mean for the work we do on the other six days?

Once again, the colloquium has given our group a lot to think about.

Posted by Joseph Goss

What is Tradition?: An Ecumenical and Interreligious Conversation

Please see below for information on an upcoming conference hosted by Valparaiso University’s Christ College, the home of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts. The conference will bring together Christian, Jewish, and Muslim scholars for a discussion of the idea of tradition in late modernity. Further information is available here:  What is Tradition?


Posted by Joseph Goss

%d bloggers like this: