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Spring 2005 Faculty Fellows

Spring Seminar: The Work of Religion: Past, Present, Future

Jill Dolan is the Z. T. Scott Family Chair in Drama in the Department of Theater and Dance.  Her interest in this year’s seminar theme comes from her recent scholarship in utopian studies, which addresses how performance can inspire “utopian performatives,” which Dr. Dolan describes as “moments of fleeting intersubjectivity among performers and spectators that offer us a glimpse or a brief affective sense of what a better world might feel like were the goals of social justice achieved.”
Jill Dolan is now at Princeton University.


Kathleen Higgins, Professor of Philosophy, is especially interested in “spirituality and the paradoxical role of religious institution in relation to it.”  In particular, she wonders how “religious institutions, which typically promote ideologies of compassion and solidarity with others, nevertheless become instruments of divisiveness, even violence.”  She has written extensively on Nietzsche, and her research on aesthetics led to a book on music’s connections with ethics, The Music of Our Lives


Terri LeClercq’s interest in religion centers on questions of moral codes rather than religious institutions.  As a fellow of the Norman Black Professorship in Ethical Communication in Law, Dr. LeClercq explores ethics in the workplace through her work with law firms to investigate problems with overzealous advocacy and her development of resources for law school writing programs that emphasize situational and ethical issues surrounding plagiarism.  Dr. LeClercq has also studied and lectured on civil disobedience and conscientious objectors, particularly among community groups protesting the World Trade Organization and the School of the Americas. 

Adam Newton is Professor of English and Director of the Jewish Studies Program. A common denominator of his work on the ethics of narrative form, the dialogic relations between African American and Jewish American fiction, twentieth century literary memoirs from Central Europe and the Levant, and contemporary Jewish religious thought has been the ethical philosophy of the late Emmanuel Levinas, whose fusion of Continental, Modern Jewish, and Talmudic hermeneutic traditions, along with his personal witness to the Holocaust, places him at the axis of Dr. Newton’s tangent scholarly interests in theology, ethics, ecumenicism, textual reasoning, and postcritical scriptural interpretation.
Adam Newton is now teaching at Yeshiva University.

Martha Newman is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Religious Studies Program.  Her academic interests focus on “the work of religious ideas and behaviors in defining communities and creating boundaries.”  Her first book, The Boundaries of Charity:  Cistercian Culture and Ecclesiastical Reform, 1098-1180, argues that the Cistercians “developed a concept of Christian love (caritas) that not only gave their monasteries a distinct identity but also provided a model for the organization and reform of the entire Church.”  Her current project, provisionally entitled The Uncertain World of Egnelhard of Langheim, examines a collection of miracle stories and exempla and places it “within the context of an intellectual and religious anxiety about perception and knowledge.” 

Faegheh Shirazi, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, is currently working on a study that examines “the competing/contesting definitions of ‘the modern Iranian woman’ with the specific aim of demonstrating how the ‘modern Iranian woman’ had been defined in Iranian popular culture after the Islamic Republic of Iran was established.”   Her first book is The Veil Unveiled:  Hijab in Modern Culture, and she has published numerous articles on veiling as cultural practice as well as on the material culture of textiles.


Jeff Smith is the Kay Fortson Chair in European Art in the Department of Art and Art History; he specializes in Northern European art from the late Middle Ages to the eighteenth century.  His teaching and research focuses on the relationships among art, religion, and different European cultures. In March he received the Hamilton Book Award for Sensuous Worship:  Jesuits and the Art of the Early Catholic Reformation in Germany, which focuses on the critical role of the Society of Jesus in re-forming Catholic religious culture in Germany. 

Bartholomew Sparrow, Associate Professor of Government, writes on U. S. politics and media, and on the internal and external dimensions of American empire. Among his current interests are the rise of the American religious right, the relative absence of an organized “religious left,” and questions—inspired in part by some earlier work on the thought of Jacob Burckhardt—about how spiritual need finds various forms of cultural expression and political manifestation across time and space.

Nancy Stalker is Assistant Professor of Asian Studies, specializing in the history of modern Japan, particularly the intersection of modernity, national identity, and religion.  She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Prophet Motive:  Deguchi Onisaburo and the Transformation of Religion in Modern Japan in which she discusses “the impact of secularization and modernity on Japan’s so-called ‘new religions’ through a case study of the heterodox Shintoist sect Omoto.”  Her interests surrounding religion include “gender and religion, transnational analysis of new religious movements, the re-invention of spiritualist practices in the 20thcentury, and questioning the use and definition of the term ‘fundamentalism.’”