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Spiritual Exercises and the Contemporary Academy

Oct 13 2010 4:30pm
University of Chicago
5801 S Ellis Ave
Chicago, IL 60637
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Bernard McGinn

University of Chicago

Lisa Ruddick

University of Chicago

David Wray

University of Chicago

The work of Pierre Hadot and, in his later years, Michel Foucault on the ancient pagan and Christian practices of askesis, or “spiritual exercise,” has proven to be of interest not only to scholars of the late classical and early Christian era, but to a much broader range of humanists working across a variety of disciplines. One reason for this interest is the possibility that religious and non-religious contemporary academics might be able to incorporate the techniques and aims of spiritual exercise into their own scholarly work, thus imbuing their academic teaching and writing with an ethical, if not religious, significance that is sometimes felt to be lacking in the day-to-day life of the academic. On this panel, we will consider whether and how the contemporary academy might be enriched by spiritual exercise and practices of contemplation or meditation.

Bernard McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School and the Committees on Medieval Studies and on General Studies at the University of Chicago. He has written extensively about the history of apocalyptic thought, spirituality, and mysticism. McGinn's many books include Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with EvilThe Presence of Goda multivolume history of Western Christian mysticism, and most recently Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae: A Biography.


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.


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).