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MemberBob Pennington

One Sunday, in 2007, at Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, in Ormond Beach, Florida, I heard an appeal for mission volunteers from Bishop Thomas Wenski.[1] I responded to his call by contacting Sister Bernadette Mackay O.S.U., the Director of the Mission office at the Diocese of Orlando. A few months later, I was in the bed of a pick-up truck as it ascended a steep mountain path made of nothing but dirt and rock. My destination was La Cucarita, a remote town in the Cordillera Central Mountains of the Dominican Republic, near the border of Haiti.   La Cucarita proved to be a liminal place for me, a place where I crossed a threshold into a new and unfamiliar reality. Before I arrived in La Cucarita, I could have never imagined that people could express so much joy and happiness while living in a cultural context marked by extreme poverty. La Cucaritan reality ultimately changed my life because I was forced to confront a paradox I did not understand.   I could not understand how everyday experiences caused me to sometimes feel like I had “encountered God” through interactions with joyful, hospitable people, or, through the contemplation of the natural landscape.[2] I also struggled to understand how I could feel the presence of God in a cultural context marked by a lack of material resources like water and electricity. Such a lack of resources necessary for daily life provoked in me a sense that: “This should not be!” Something was “not right.” Seven years later, in my Ph.D. program, I learned that I had what Edward Schillebeeckx describes as a “negative contrast experience.” LaReine-Marie Mosely writes that, for Schillebeeckx, a negative contrast experience is something that has the power to evoke not only “outrage at excessive human suffering,” but also “protest and eventual praxis to ameliorate and end the suffering.”[3]   As my mission work came to an end, the paradox of Cucarita remained a puzzle I could not solve. After I returned to Florida, I reflected on my mission experience and realized that my “social imaginary” had been annihilated.[4] Charles Taylor explains that a social imaginary is the way people “imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others,” and how things ought to go.[5] The paradoxical reality of Cucarita had annihilated my desire to pursue the social imaginary I associated with the “American Dream.”[6] Ultimately, my experience in Cucarita forced me to question my ideals and my goals. And, soon thereafter, I realized I no longer wanted to be a postmodern American whose “idiosyncratic preferences are their own justifications” for happiness.[7]   The change I underwent could be described as a metanoia, a conversion where my “eyes were opened” and my “former world faded and fell away.”[8] La Cucarita had not only opened my eyes to real social injustice but also to a new vision of happiness. I felt compelled to act, I felt inspired to do something. But, what? I chose to pursue graduate studies in theology.   After I earned a master’s degree in Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, I enrolled in a Practical Theology Ph.D. program at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. In Miami, I learned that my vocation is to be a Catholic theologian, ethicist, and educator who instructs students’ on how to use a theological method to make crucial moral choices in siding with the poor and marginalized in a civic and political context. [1] Wenski is now Archbishop of Miami.   [2] What I mean when I say “I encountered God” is analogous to the way in which Karl Rahner, S.J. spoke as if he were Ignatius of Loyola speaking to a modern Jesuit: “I encountered God; I have experienced him.” For more see, Karl Rahner, Ignatius of Loyola Speaks, trans. Annemarie S. Kidder, (St. Augustine’s Press: South Bend, Indiana, 2013), 6-9.   [3] For more on this topic see LaReine-Marie Mosely, “Negative Contrast Experience: An Ignatian Appraisal,” Horizons 41, no. 1 (2014): 74-95. What is central to Schillebeeckx’s claim is when individuals and communities face evil and suffering—their own and that of others—the universal pre-religious response is “This cannot be allowed to continue!” What is most crucial about Schillebeeckx’s argument for my present and future work is that the feeling of pre-religious indignation becomes the “specific starting point for ethics.”   [4] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 171-2. In Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), James K.A. Smith writes that, in regard to the phrase “social imaginary,” Taylor acknowledges his debt to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1991), 65n46.   [5] Taylor, A Secular Age, 171. Commenting on Taylor’s concept, James K.A. Smith suggests that the imagination (an imaginary) is a “quasi-faculty whereby we construe the world on a precognitive level, on a register that is fundamentally aesthetic precisely because it is so closely tied to the body. As embodied creatures, our orientation to the world begins from, and lives off of, the fuel of our bodies, including the ‘images’ of the world that are absorbed by our bodies.” Heuristically, then, the “imagination” (an imaginary) names a kind of faculty that is kinesthetic because it is closely tied to the body and how we make sense of our world. For more see, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 17-19n37, n38.   [6] James K.A. Smith argues that the modern American social imaginary promotes a narrative of autonomy that indicates that one gives oneself (autos) the law (nomos). For more, see James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 175n50.   [7] Joseph A. Tetlow, “The Most Postmodern Prayer: American Jesuit Identity and the Examen of Conscience, 1920-1990,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 26, no.1 (1994): 33.   [8] Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), 130. A richer description of Lonergan’s insight is that conversion is “a transformation of the subject and his world. Normally it is a prolonged process though its explicit acknowledgement may be concentrated in a few momentous judgments or decisions.” And, “conversion, as lived, affects all of a man’s conscious and intentional operations. It directs his gaze, pervades his imagination…it enriches his understanding, guides his judgments, reinforces his decisions.” 130-131.

MemberHussein Rashid

Hussein Rashid, PhD, is founder of islamicate, L3C, a consultancy focusing on religious literacy and cultural competency. He works with a variety of NGOs, foundations, non-profits, and governmental agencies for content expertise on religion broadly, with a specialization on Islam. His work includes exploring theology, the interaction between culture and religion, and the role of the arts in conflict mediation. Hussein has a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia University, a Masters in Theological Studies focusing on Islam, and an MA and PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, focusing on South and Central Asia from Harvard University. He is a contingent faculty member and has taught at Hofstra University, Fordham University, Iona College, Virginia Theological Seminary, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, SUNY Old Westbury, Barnard College, Columbia University, and The New School. His research focuses on Muslims and American popular culture. He writes and speaks about music, comics, movies, and the blogistan. He also has a background in South and Central Asian studies, with a deep interest in Shi’i justice theology. He has published academic works on Muslims and American Popular Culture, Malcolm X, qawwali, intra-Muslim racism, teaching Shi’ism, Islam and comics, free speech, Sikhs and Islamophobia, Muslims in film, and American Muslim spaces of worship. His current project focuses on the role of technology in teaching religion. He is a fellow with The Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship in Social Entrepreneurship, the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, and the Truman National Security Project. He was a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, and a term member on the Council of Foreign Relations. He is on the advisory boards of The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (Building Bridges Program), Sacred Matters, Anikaya Dance Theater, the Tanenbaum Center, and Al-Rawiya. He served on the advisory board of Project Interfaith, Everplans, Intersections International, Deily, and the British Council’s Our Shared Future Program. He is currently working with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan as a content expert. He was on the editorial boards of Religion Dispatches, The Islamic Monthly, and Cyber Orient, in addition to being an emeritus scholar at State of Formation. Hussein appears on mainstream media, including CNN, Channel 4 (UK),  Al-Jazeera America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and has published at On Faith (Washington Post), Belief Blog (CNN), On Being (NPR), The Revealer, and as a contributor to Religion News Service.

MemberJacqueline Vayntrub

Interests Hebrew Bible; wisdom literature; instruction transmission; biblical poetry and poetics; philology; the history of biblical scholarship. I founded the Philology in Hebrew Studies program unit, which I now co-chair with David Lambert, and chair the Hebrew Bible, History, and Archaeology program unit at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting. I am an editor of Studies in Cultural Contexts of the Bible, a new English, German, and French language monograph series with Brill. Together with David Lambert, Eva Mroczek, and Laura Quick, I run Renewed Philology, an international working group of scholars in biblical studies whose work reflects critically on the intellectual frameworks of the reader that are brought to bear in philological practice. Research My research focuses on the formation of the Hebrew Bible, its various genres and modes of discourse against the broader background of ancient Near Eastern literary production, and its reception in and impact on Western scholarship. Broadly, my work seeks to recover the values of ancient literary culture through the language of the texts and examines how these values were reshaped in their reception. On my first book: “Central to understanding the prophecy and prayer of the Hebrew Bible are the unspoken assumptions that shaped them–their genres. Modern scholars describe these works as ‘poetry,’ but there was no corresponding ancient Hebrew term or concept. Scholars also typically assume it began as “oral literature,” a concept based more in evolutionist assumptions than evidence. Is biblical poetry a purely modern fiction or is there a more fundamental reason why its definition escapes us? Beyond Orality: Biblical Poetry on its Own Terms changes the debate by showing how biblical poetry has worked as a mirror, reflecting each era’s own self-image of verbal art. Yet Vayntrub also shows that this problem is rooted in a crucial pattern within the Bible itself: the texts we recognize as “poetry” are framed as powerful and ancient verbal performances, dramatic speeches from the past. The Bible’s creators presented what we call poetry in terms of their own image of the ancient and the oral, and understanding their native theories of Hebrew verbal art gives us a new basis to rethink our own.” See the book on the Routledge page. A special offer of the book at the Yale Divinity School Bookstore can be found here. My next book is currently underway. Reframing Biblical Poetry (under contract with Yale University Press in the Anchor Bible Reference Library series), takes the central insight of my first book—that poetry’s narrative and non-narrative frames shape its meaning—to present fresh readings of well known texts. The book has three sections, where I will explore how poetry is framed by narrative, in character voices; how poetry is arranged in anthology, not in a character’s voice, but by the names and personages of legendary characters; and how some of these ideas manifest as literary features. Yet another project involves theorizing  knowledge transmission and its gendered dimensions through the lens of human mortality. For what will eventually be a book, tentatively titled Seeking Eternity: Transmission and Mortal Anxiety in Biblical Literature, I have already produced a number of essays examining the depiction of lineage and succession as strategies for transcending individual death in wisdom and narrative texts. One article forthcoming in the Pardee Festschrift, entitled “Transmission and Mortal Anxiety in the Tale of Aqhat,” shows how the Ugaritic tale of Aqhat constructs a father-daughter alternative to succession. A second forthcoming essay in a collected volume, “Ecclesiastes and The Problem of Transmission in Biblical Literature,” examines Ecclesiastes against ancient Near Eastern instruction and Platonic dialogues, recovering an ancient question about the stability of transmission: Is speech reliable when it is detached from the living speaker’s voice? A third essay, forthcoming in a volume on Ben Sira, “Wisdom in Transmission: Rethinking Ben Sira and Proverbs,” re-examines the evolutionary framework in the study of biblical wisdom literature, and presents an alternative framework, in which instruction can be read as a discourse of trans-generational survival. A fourth essay, “Like Father, Like Son: Theorizing Transmission in Biblical Literature,” forthcoming in an issue of the journal Hebrew Bible Ancient Israel, considers how literary techniques such as “command and fulfillment” manifest broader social and intellectual values and can give us hints as to what biblical authors understood by “transmission” in their depiction of the passage of objects, responsibility, instruction, and text from one generation to the next. These inquiries also intellectually situate the text editions I am currently producing with Matthew Suriano for the SBL Writings of the Ancient World Series, Hebrew and Aramaic Writings about the Dead from Judah and Judea: Eighth cent. BCE through First cent. BCE.

MemberCdr. Trevor D. Biscope, CA Emerit

TREVOR BISCOPE is an award honored military officer & tech magnate. He is Chief Executive of Vegas™ official license by C-Byte™ (’88) rated America’s 2nd & World’s 8th; connects 46M+ professionals a year. Tank and SOF Officer holds America’s 2nd Prestige (Stagwell NYC ’14) two wound stripes & five awards for conduct; 5-Star force behind the mission & objectives; became a professional polo player at a young age. Trev has extensive experience with growing, restructuring & turnaround of distressed & under-performing companies, improving culture, instilling values & advising startup companies & boards. Most notably, a vis-à-vis owner & Mainframe Operator: Renaissance (TSX:RES), 2000 Husky Energy (HSE) planned merge; super user of a computer that managed USD$4.8+ Billion ARR (’20 Dollars). Most recent initiative, Vegas™: Commercial Capital Project – an Intel®-based Data Center Solution – by C-Byte™; Yale Club NYC (2009) debut, launched an Internet Gaming movement in American gambling; 2.66M+ Visitors in 2018. Most mainstream notably, as a chosen Founding Board Advisor: Agreed (2010) purchase & merge 9 clubs, 22 casinos & 1700 retail books in a year, RD$4.7B+ yield $26.3+ Billion. Trev is a prolific speaker: World Polo Player Tours, Yale Club, Maker Space, Ranchmen’s Club, Open Hack, GlobalTV, Red Bull, Fifth Estate, MTV, “Jason Bourne” & Coder School. He is the author, of an intellectual property portfolio & drives: America’s 2nd Brand (Landor NYC ’07); World’s 8th Brand (Saffron Consultants UK ’14); World’s #1 Language (IEEE Spectrum ’16). He amassed 100+ credited US publications & truly legendary one-of-a-kind hits: ‘C-Byte’, ‘ONReady’ & the Series ‘Vegas’. Trev is a Five-Star Rated Int’l (ISO/IEC) Master Programmer (ONReady™): Freelancer.com (fmr ScriptLance™ 2001 World’s 5th Market ASX:FLN) showcase: 50+ projects, 17+ years. Welcome! # # # Specialties: Management, CEO Coach, Director, Executive Chairman, CEO, Marketing & Sales, Team Building, Board Advisor. United Nations GM#408486 · MOAA · V(OF-7)

MemberCynthia Gabbay

Dr. Cynthia Gabbay holds a PhD (2012) in Romanic and Latin American Studies from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her book Los ríos metafísicos de Julio Cortázar: de la lírica al diálogo was published in 2015. A manuscript on Street Art in Buenos Aires: Symbols of a Revolution, resulting from a fellowship from The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is in preparation. She completed a second postdoctoral research on comparative literature at the University of Haifa and actually she is in postdoctoral research at The Elyachar Center at Ben Gurion University. She is also a research associate at the European Research Council’s project “Apartheid–The Global Itinerary: South African Cultural Formations in Transnational Circulation, 1948-1990” directed by Dr. Louise Bethlehem. Further research interests are studies on intertextuality and architextuality, Latin American modern poetry and literature, converso literature in the Spanish colonies, political art, anarchist phenomena, semiotics and metafiction.  

MemberSimone Bregni, Ph.D.

I am an associate professor of Italian language, literature and culture with twenty-six years of teaching & leadership experience at the university level. Since July 1st, 2020, I serve as Chairperson of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Saint Louis University. My areas of specialization are Medieval & Renaissance Italian literature and foreign (F/L2) language acquisition. Currently, my focus is on the applications of technology and digital media to language acquisition, in particular video game-based learning (VGBL). In fall 2016, as a recipient of the Saint Louis University (SLU) Reinert Center for Innovative Teaching, I developed Intensive Italian for Gamers. The course was successfully taught in the SLU state-of-the-art Learning Studio in spring 2017. I have presented my research and results in workshops and presentations, at conferences and in publications (in print and forthcoming). I have an extensive and eclectic background in Classics (Greek and Latin, Philology, Literature), Ancient and Medieval History, Theology, Philosophy; but also in Cinema Studies, International Studies, Communications and Journalism. I definitely enjoyed the variety of my studies. I am a firm believer in multidisciplinary approaches to both learning and teaching.

MemberDavid Geoffrey Lummus

David Lummus is co-director of the Center for Italian Studies and the Devers Family Program in Dante Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he is also a visiting assistant professor of Italian in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. He was previously on the faculty at Yale University and then at Stanford University, where he taught medieval and early modern Italian literature and culture. His publications on Boccaccio, Petrarch, and the Italian fourteenth century have appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and books. His monograph, The City of Poetry: Imagining the Civic Role of the Poet in Fourteenth-Century Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2020) was awarded the 2019 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies by the Modern Language Association. He has co-edited a book with Martin Eisner entitled A Boccaccian Renaissance: Essays on the Early Modern Impact of Giovanni Boccaccio and His Works (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019) and he is the editor of The Decameron Sixth Day in Perspective (Toronto, 2021). He is also a member of the editorial board of Dante Studies, the journal of the Dante Society of America, for 2020-2022.

MemberErika Supria Honisch

In Fall 2021, I will begin a three-year term as Graduate Program Director in the Stony Brook Music Department. Service to the Field (selected)

  • Editorial Board, Yale Journal of Music & Religion (2020–)
  • Co-Chair, American Musicological Society Graduate Education Committee (2020–2022)
  • Member, Society for 17th-Century Music Program Committee (2021)
  • Member, American Musicological Society Program Committee (2019)
  • Past Co-Chair, American Musicological Society Cultural Diversity Committee (2015–2017)
  • Reviewer: Journal of Musicology, The History Journal,  Yale Journal of Music & Religion, Quadrivium: Revista de Musicologia, Past Tense, Oxford University Press

MemberElisa Kriza

As a comparatist, I am interested in the intersection of politics, history, and literature. The transnational phenomena of communism, anti-communism and nationalism are at the center of my research. My work has been published by international journals such as Comparative Literature Studies, German Life and Letters, European Review of History, Bulletin of Latin American Research, Literatura Mexicana and Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung.

MemberPeter Morey

  I am an internationally recognised scholar in the fields of twentieth-century and contemporary literary studies with an extensive track record of publications, successful research funding applications and public engagement. I am the author of four books, numerous articles in peer reviewed journals, edited volumes and other publications, and have edited four essay collections and a journal special issue. My recent funding successes (as Principal Investigator) include a Research Councils UK Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellowship (£491,133) to lead a project entitled Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue from 2012 to 2015, and the AHRC funded Framing Muslims international research network, 2007-2010 (£49,550). I currently hold a Chair in 20th Century English Literature at the University of Birmingham, and have taught across a wide range of modern and contemporary literature modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels throughout my career.   Research Interests ·       Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature ·       Postcolonial and World Literature and Theory ·       Multiculturalism, Globalisation and Islamophobia ·       Religion, Communalism and the Secular ·       The Politics of Representation in Literature, Film and Television