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Internationally known religious thinker named to prestigious SU visiting professorship
Internationally known religious thinker named to prestigious SU visiting professorshipMarch 16, 2005Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Karen Armstrong, one of the world’s most recognized and provocative thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world, has been named the 2005 Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Professor in the Humanities in The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University.
Armstrong will be on campus April 12-19. She will speak on “The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” April 12 at 7:30 p.m., in Hendricks Chapel. The event is the keynote address in the yearlong celebration of Hendricks Chapel’s 75th anniversary, and is also part of the yearlong celebration in honor of the inauguration of Chancellor Nancy Cantor.
Armstrong’s other public lectures will be “Paul and the God of the Philosophers,” April 15 at 4 p.m., in the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center’s Regency Ballroom, as part of The College of Arts and Sciences’ St. Paul Among the Philosophers Conference; and “The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness,” an inaugural event, April 18 at 7:30 p.m., in Watson Auditorium, 316 Waverly Ave.
During her visit to Syracuse, Armstrong will also participate in seminars with students in the Department of Religion, the Renee Crown University Honors Program and the Religion and Society Program.
“Karen Armstrong’s deep thinking and understanding about what links the world’s religions, when we are so often focused on their differences-and her unique ability to share this knowledge through the lens of personal exploration-make her one of the most recognized writers on the role of religion in the modern world,” says Kandice Salomone, associate dean for administration in The College of Arts and Sciences.
“Ms. Armstrong’s visit comes at a time when the discussions of religion and religious fundamentalism are essential,” Salomone says. “The College expects that the key intellectual issues raised during her visit will lead to active, ongoing discussions about religious freedom and the role of religion and spirituality on campus, in our communities and in our lives.”
It was in Jerusalem, while working on a television series on Saint Paul, that Armstrong came face-to-face with how three of the world’s religions-Christianity, Islam and Judaism-often clashed, sometimes violently, even though all are rooted in the belief that every human being is sacred. She has examined these religions, the notion of God and the origins and growth of fundamentalism and its opposition to the modern world in more than a dozen books, including “A History of God” (Ballantine, 1993); “Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths” (Knopf, 1996); “Islam: A Short History” (Modern Library, 2000) and “The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam” (Knopf, 2000). Armstrong’s two biographies, “Buddha” (Viking Penguin, 2001) and “Muhammad” (Harper Collins, 1992) have also received widespread critical acclaim.
Armstrong’s latest book, “The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness” (Knopf, 2004), a memoir, details her lifelong spiritual quest. She spent several years in a convent in England, and left in 1969 after her personal search for God ended in failure.
Armstrong is currently an instructor at Leo Baeck College-Centre for Jewish Education in London and was the recipient of the 1999 Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Award.
The Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professorship in the Humanities is among the most preeminent lectureships at SU and brings to the campus scholars and writers whose work is esteemed throughout the humanities. Previous holders of the professorship have included Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow, David Bohm, Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Ernst Gombrich, Hans Mommsen, Toni Morrison, John Searl, Mario Vargas Llosa, Leo Steinberg, Teresa deLaurentis, Bernard Williams, Natalie Zemon Davis, Stephen Greenblatt, Martha Nussbaum and Anthony Grafton. The professorship was made possible by the generosity of the late Jeannette K. Watson. The family of Jeannette K. and Thomas Watson has long been a friend and supporter of the University in various ways.