Fr. Peter FunkMonastery of the Holy Cross
Lisa RuddickUniversity of Chicago
Jennifer SummitSan Francisco State University
Blakey VermeuleStanford University
David WrayUniversity of Chicago
A symposium on the recent book Action versus Contemplation: Why an Ancient Debate Still Matters (University of Chicago Press, 2018) by Jennifer Summit and Blakey Vermeule. Free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact us at 773-955-5887 or by email.
Cosponsored by the English Department, the Seminary Coop Bookstore, the University of Chicago Press, the Our Sunday Visitor Institute, and the Theology Club at the Divinity School. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” Blaise Pascal wrote in 1654. But then there’s Walt Whitman, in 1856: “Whoever you are, come forth! Or man or woman come forth! / You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house.”
It is truly an ancient debate: Is it better to be active or contemplative? To do or to think? To make an impact, or to understand the world more deeply? With Action versus Contemplation, Jennifer Summit and Blakey Vermeule address the question in a refreshingly unexpected way: by refusing to take sides. Rather, they argue for a rethinking of the very opposition. The active and the contemplative can—and should—be vibrantly alive in each of us, fused rather than sundered. Writing in a personable, accessible style, Summit and Vermeule guide readers through the long history of this debate from Plato to Pixar, drawing compelling connections to the questions and problems of today.
Fr. Peter Funk, OSB, is the Prior of the Monastery of the Holy Cross, a contemplative Benedictine monastery in the South Side neighborhood of Bridgeport. Fr. Peter received his B.A. in music from the University of Chicago. After graduating, he was a choral conductor at St. Thomas the Apostle parish and the University of Chicago. He entered monastic life in 1997. Fr. Peter received a Master’s degree in Theology at St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota, where he majored in Scripture. In 2012, he helped to found the choir Schola Laudis, whose mission is to reintroduce the Catholic tradition of polyphony at the monastery's celebration of Vespers. Fr. Peter has composed numerous motets and four a cappella settings of the Mass.
Lisa Ruddick is Associate Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD from Harvard University, and has taught at the University of Chicago since 1981. Her teaching and research focus on modern British fiction, literature and psychoanalysis, and poetry and poetics; and more specifically the question of the feeling of aliveness, especialy among scholars in the humanities. She is author of numerous scholarly works, including Reading Gertrude Stein: Body, Text, Gnosis.
Jennifer Summit is Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at San Francisco State University. She holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins University and was previously Professor of English at Stanford University. She is author of numerous scholarly articles and two books: Memory's Library: Medieval Books in Early Modern England and Lost Property: The Woman Writer and Enlgihs Literary History, 1380-1589. Most recently, she has co-authored with Blakey Vermeule Action versus Contemplation: Why an Ancient Debate Still Matters.
Blakey Vermeule is Professor of English at Stanford University. She holds a PhD from UC Berkeley and a BA from Yale. Her research interests are neuroaesthetics, cognitive and evolutionary approaches to art, philosophy and literature, British literature from 1660-1820, post-Colonial fiction, satire, and the history of the novel. She is the author of The Party of Humanity: Writing Moral Psychology in Eighteenth-Century Britain (2000) and Why Do We Care About Literary Characters? (2009), both from The Johns Hopkins University Press. She is writing a book about what mind science has discovered about the unconscious.
David Wray is an Associate Professor in the Department of Classics, the Department of Comparative Literature, and the College at the University of Chicago. He holds a PhD from Harvard University. He is the author of Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood (Cambridge 2001), and was a coeditor of Seneca and the Self (Cambridge 2009). He is currently writing Ovid at the Tragic Core of Modernity.