If you hear someone breathing hard in College Hall, it’s probably me. Yes, I am getting over a cold but there has been a lot of activity around the McAnulty College lately. Last week, two important events happened.
Last Tuesday evening, October 22, the Pascal Day lecture took place. For those scoring at home, Pascal Day is an exploration of science, philosophy and faith. This annual lecture series is named for Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French scientist and mathematician. Pascal’s later writings on Christianity reveal a thinker whose faith deepened and grew stronger as the intricacy of creation’s workings became known to him through science. (Say it with me, “Mind blown”).
The guest speaker for this year’s lecture was Dr. Jon Levenson of Harvard. He lectured to a large crowd on “Abraham and the Absoluteness of God.”
This year’s talk explored the difference between the portrait of the patriarch Abraham as he appears in Genesis versus how he appears in certain currents in second temple and rabbinic Judaism. The discussion focused on the importance of the rejection of iconography in ancient Israelite religion and the role this played in the transformation — and philosophical deepening — of monotheism in late antiquity.
A second event also happened around the McAnulty College: The History Forum. For more than four decades, the Department of History has hosted the History Forum, attracting national and international scholars to address topics of current as well as historical and academic interest.
This year’s speaker was Dr. Robert K. Nelson, Director, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond. Dr. Nelson as directed and developed a number of digital humanities projects, including “Mining the Dispatch,” “Redlining Richmond,” and
the History Engine. He’s currently working on two projects. One uses a
text-mining technique called topic modeling to analyze nationalism in Civil War newspapers. The other is a multi-year, collaborative project to develop an extensive digital atlas of American history.
Thanks to all who attended these events. Although these may not be topics you discuss on a daily basis, the great thing is that this is the McAnulty College at its finest. These events help contribute to students gaining a better understanding of themselves, their place in the world, and ultimately how to make a difference.