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William Littman, Senior Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Visual Studies, California College of the Arts

For more than a century, Bay Area architects have created some of the nation’s most innovative religious architecture, ranging from the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Berkeley by Bernard Maybeck to the award-winning Congregation Beth Sholom Synagogue in San Francisco designed by Stanley Saitowitz in 2009. This talk explores the history of experimental and radical religious architecture in Northern California, with a special focus on design after the Second World War, as architects responded to changes in liturgical practices in the Roman Catholic Church after Vatican II as well as the progressive ideals of Protestant and Jewish congregations in the region. It also explores the contribution of 1960s countercultural groups that further pushed the boundaries of religious architecture, often using forms borrowed from Native American and Buddhist religious traditions.(Littmann)

William Littmann is a Senior Adjunct Professor at the California College of the Arts, teaching architectural history in the Architecture and Visual Studies departments. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and his M.A. in print journalism from Columbia University. Recent areas of study include the landscape and architecture of Japanese incarceration during World War II, farmworker communities in California Central Valley, and a history of the El Camino Real corridor in California from Native American settlement to the rise of Silicon Valley.

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, San Francisco, Pier Luigi Nervi and Pietro Belluschi (architects), 1965.

Credit: William Littman, 2014.

Joan Richardson, Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and American Studies, The Graduate Center, CUNY

On several occasions William James described Pragmatism as continuing the work of the Protestant Reformation, loosening the ties of orthodoxy and outworn habit of any kind to admit all the possibilities of belief belonging to a pluralistic universe. In the penultimate paragraph of Pragmatism (1907), he writes; “We do not yet know which type of religion is going to work best in the long run. The various overbeliefs of men, the several faith-ventures, are in fact what is needed to bring the evidence in.” Just as nature described by Charles Darwin produced a superabundance of varieties in each species, offering thereby the possibility of fit, and so continuity, within the constantly changing order of things, so the varieties of religious experience offer possibilities of our continuing relation, beyond our understanding, of “vital conversation with the unseen divine.” The exploration suggested herein was and is the work of the philosophical method that came to be identified with James, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey and their inheritors, among them, Reinhold Niebuhr, yet this intrinsic aspect has been more recently persistently ignored/repressed. “Pragmatism…she widens the field of search for God.” This project and its occulting will be the subjects of my address. (Richardson)

Joan Richardson is the author of a two-volume biography of the poet Wallace Stevens, co-edited with Frank Kermode, Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose (Library of America, 1997). Her essays on Stevens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Jonathan Edwards have been published in the Wallace Stevens Journal, in Raritan, and elsewhere, and essays on Alfred North Whitehead, William James, and pragmatism have appeared in the journals Configurations and The Hopkins Review. Her study A Natural History of Pragmatism: The Fact of Feeling from Jonathan Edwards to Gertrude Stein was published by Cambridge University Press in 2007, and was nominated for the 2011 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Another volume for Cambridge, Pragmatism and American Experience was published in June 2014. Among other current writing engagements, she is preparing for press Images, Shadows of Divine Things, the project for which she was awarded a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship; inspired in part by Jonathan Edwards, it is a secular spiritual autobiography in hybrid, experimental form. Joan Richardson has also been the recipient of several other awards, including a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her work reflects an abiding interest in the way that philosophy, natural history, and science intersect with literature. She is particularly preoccupied with the complex relation between language and perception.

Co-presented with the Center for the Arts, Religion and Education (CARE).

Sara McClintock, Associate Professor of Tibetan and Indian Buddhism, Emory University

Sara McClintock is Associate Professor of Religion at Emory University, where she teaches courses in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism and interpretation theory in the study of religion. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Bryn Mawr College (1983), her master’s degree in world religions from Harvard Divinity School (1989), and her doctorate in religion from Harvard University (2002). Her interests include narrative, philosophy, and contemplative practices, with particular focus on issues of rationality, rhetoric, reading, embodiment, emptiness, and ethics. She is author of Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason: Santaraksita and Kamalasila on Rationality, Argumentation, and Religious Authority (2010) and co-editor with Georges Dreyfus of The Svatantrika-Prasangika Distinction: What Difference Does a Difference Make? (2003). Recent writings include “Compassionate Trickster: The Buddha as a Literary Character in the Narratives of Early Indian Buddhism” (2011) and an article on the status of phenomenal content (akara) in cognition in Kamalasila’s Tattvasamgrahapanjika (2013). She is co-translator with John Dunne of Nagarjuna’s Ratnavali.

Co-presented by the Center for Buddhist Studies.