Faith and Culture Lecture Series

Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen is an acclaimed, bestselling author of five novels, including The Corrections (winner of the National Book Award, 2001), Freedom(2010), and Purity (2015); and five works of nonfiction and translation, including Farther Away and The Kraus Project, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Lawrence Joseph

Acclaimed poet Lawrence Joseph was born into a Lebanese and Syrian Catholic immigrant family in Detroit.  Jesuit education and a Catholic sense of justice (and injustice) inform all of his poetry, from his first book, Shouting at No One (1983), to his sixth, So Where Are We? (2017), published last fall. Picking up where his collection Into It (2007) left off, So Where Are We? utilizes the language of beauty and love to address some of the problems facing our post-9/11 world, including racism and war, labor and capital, and political economy.

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith was born in Massachusetts and raised in northern California.  She earned a BA from Harvard University and an MFA from the Graduate Writing Program at Columbia University, and then held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.  From 1997 to 1999, she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University.  Smith is the author of four books of poetry: The Body’s Question (2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essence Literary Award; Life on Mars (2011), winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; and Wade in the Water (forthcoming, April 2018).  In 2014, she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship.  She has also written a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction.  In June 2017, Smith was named U.S. Poet Laureate.  She is the Director of Princeton University’s program in creative writing. 

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese is an Academy Award-winning director and one of the most influential filmmakers working today.  He has directed critically acclaimed, award-winning films including Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, which won an Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture, Shutter Island, and Hugo for which he received a Golden Globe for Best Director.  His 2013 film, The Wolf of Wall Street, received DGA, BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for Best Director, as well as a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Film.  His latest feature, Silence, is based on the acclaimed novel by Shusaku Endo. Scorsese has directed numerous documentaries including the Peabody Award-winning No Direction Home: Bob Dylan and Elia Kazan: A Letter to Elia; as well as Italianamerican, The Last Waltz, A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies, Il Mio Viaggio in Italia, Public Speaking, and George Harrison: Living in the Material World, for which Scorsese received Emmy Awards for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming and Outstanding Nonfiction Special.  Scorsese co- directed The 50 Year Argument in 2014 with his long time documentary editor David Tedeschi. Scorsese executive produced the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, winning an Emmy and DGA Award for directing the pilot episode.  Scorsese is the founder and chair of The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of motion picture history.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, born in 1977, grew up in Nigeria and now divides her time between Nigeria and the United States.  Her work has been translated into over thirty languages, and has appeared in various publications.  She is the author of three novels: Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013), as well as a short-story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009).  Americanah has received numerous accolades, including the National Book Critics Circle Award.  It was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review.  Ms. Adichie is a 2008 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellowship.  She speaks around the world, including two TED talks: The Danger of A Single Story (2009), and We Should All Be Feminists (2012), since published as a book.  Her most recent work is the just-published Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.  This book takes the form of a letter to a childhood friend

Billy Collins

Born in New York in 1941, Billy Collins is a distinguished poet, one whose work is read, discussed, and cherished by many.  As Poet Laureate of the United States in 2002, Collins wrote a commemorative poem for the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and read it aloud before a joint session of Congress.  He has been called “America’s favorite poet” (The Wall Street Journal) and a writer whose work “helps us feel the mystery of being alive” (Poetry).  The Rain in Portugal is his twelfth collection of poetry.


David Gregory is a journalist covering politics and foreign affairs. Gregory is the former moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press. He previously served as chief White House correspondent for NBC News, where he was hailed by Washingtonian magazine as a “firebrand in the front row.” How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey (2015) is his first book, offering Gregory’s reflections on his career, family, and beliefs centered around his exploration of his Jewish identity. He earned his undergraduate degree from American University in Washington, D.C.

Mario MarazZiti

Mario Marazziti, a longtime spokesman for the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Rome-based progressive Catholic non-governmental organization, co-founded the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty in 2002. For many years, he was a producer with RAI, the Italian television network. In 2012, Marazziti was elected to the lower house of Italian parliament, where he pursues a broad human-rights based portfolio. He is the author of a number of books in Italian and has written a regular column for Corriere della Serra. He lives in Rome.

Christian Wiman

Christian Wiman is a poet and senior lecturer in religion and literature at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music in Yale’s Divinity School. He is the author of four books of poetry: Once In the West (2014), Every Riven Thing (2010), Hard Night (2005), and The Long Home (1998); a collection of essays, Ambition and Survival: On Becoming a Poet (2007); and a memoir, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (2013). His translations of Osip Mendelstam are collected in Stolen Air (2012). From 2003 until 2013 Wiman was the editor of Poetry magazine, the premier magazine for poetry in the English-speaking world. During that time the magazine’s circulation tripled, and it garnered two National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors. He is a recipient of both the Ruth Lilly and Wallace Stegner fellowships. A native of West Texas, Wiman graduated from Washington and Lee University.

Colum McCann

Colum McCann is an award-winning novelist and distinguished lecturer of creative writing with the Master of Fine Arts program at Hunter College in New York. Born in Dublin, Ireland, McCann is the author of six novels, including TransAtlantic (2013) and Let the Great World Spin (2009), which won the 2009 U.S. National Book Award. His writing has been published in more than 35 languages and has appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, Esquire, the Atlantic, and The New York Times. In addition to his literary works, McCann is the co-founder of Narrative 4, a non-profit organization that works to break down barriers through storytelling and empathy.

Taylor Branch

Taylor Branch is an American author and public speaker best known for his landmark trilogy on the civil rights era, America in the King Years. He has returned to civil rights history in his latest book, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement (2013). His 2009 memoir, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President, chronicles an unprecedented eight-year project to gather a sitting president’s comprehensive oral history secretly on tape. His cover story for the October 2011 issue of The Atlantic, “The Shame of College Sports,” touched off continuing national debate. Branch began his career as a magazine journalist for The Washington Monthly in 1970.

Alice McDermott

Alice McDermott was born in Brooklyn, New York, and lives in Bethesda, Maryland. She is the author of the novels A Bigamist’s Daughter (1982); That Night (1987), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award; At Weddings and Wakes (1992), a New York Times bestseller and a Pulitzer Prize finalist; Charming Billy (1998), which won the National Book Award; Child of My Heart (2002), which was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and After This (2006), a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She is the Richard A. Macksey Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. Her seventh novel, Someone, was published in September 2013.

Fr. Michael Paul Gallagher, S.J.

Father Gallagher is an author, professor, theologian, and intellectual interested in examinations of “faith and unbelief, culture and spirituality.” After studying literature at University College Dublin and Caen University, he entered the Jesuits at an early age.

As a student at Oxford in Renaissance literature, he focused on the poetry of George Herbert. His experience studying literature has provided a unique—but fruitful—background to the study of theology. From 1972 to 1990, he served as a lecturer in modern English and American literature at University College, Dublin. In 1979, he received his doctorate in theology at Queen’s University, Belfast—the first Roman Catholic to do so in theology. A few years later, he published his first book, Help my Unbelief (1983). Moving to Rome, he has worked on the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

He then became a professor of fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where from 2005-2008 he served as dean of the theology faculty. His courses include: “unbelief and culture, seminars on Newman, Bernard Lonergan, the relationship between theology and imagination, and the history of thinking on the act of faith.” Since September 2009, he has served as Rector of the Collegio Bellarmino in Rome, a Jesuit community for post-graduate students. His book, Faith Maps: Ten Religious Explorers from Newman to Joseph Ratzinger was published in 2010.

Fr. John O’Malley, S.J.

Father O’Malley is a distinguished member of our faculty, serving as a University Professor in the Department of Theology. One of our world’s most well-known and widely respected church historians, Fr. O’Malley has held a number of prestigious fellowships, including those awarded by the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additionally, he has won life-time achievement awards from the Society for Italian Historical Studies, and the Renaissance Society of America.

He is past president of the American Catholic Historical Association, and of the Renaissance Society of America. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995, and to the American Philosophical Society in 1997. He is the author and editor of more than a dozen books. Among his most celebrated works are: Trent and all That; Four Cultures of the West; What Happened At Vatican II; and The First Jesuits—this one has been translated into ten languages.

After attending Loyola University, Fr. O’Malley received his doctorate in history from Harvard, and has taught and lectured at a number of institutions, including Harvard and Oxford. Before coming to Georgetown, he was Distinguished Professor of Church History at Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

James Wood

James Wood was born in Durham, England, in 1965, and attended Cambridge University. He worked on the books pages of The Guardian, in London, before moving to America in 1995. From 1995 until 2007, he was a Senior Editor at The New Republic. In 2007, he became a Staff Writer at The New Yorker, where he is a literary critic. He is also Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University. Wood is the author of two books of essays, The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (1999), and The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and The Novel (2004); a novel, The Book Against God (2003); and a work of criticism, How Fiction Works (2008). He won a National Magazine Award in 2008 for his criticism in The New Yorker.

Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez has been hailed by The Washington Post as one of the most eloquent and probing public intellectuals in the country.” Because of three memoirs, because of his television essays for two decades on The NewsHour on PBS, and because of his essays in newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Europe, he has become the most prominent Hispanic intellectual in America.

The son of Mexican immigrants—a self-described “ scholarship boy”—Rodriguez, in his first and most famous book, Hunger of Memory, wrote about the painful but necessary experience of assimilation and of his difficult Americanization in the classroom. He was criticized by some readers and celebrated by others for voicing skepticism about bilingual education and affirmative action. Rodriguez remains adamant in his opinion that class is a more important factor for one’s life in America than race or ethnicity.

His second book, Days of Obligation, An Argument With My Mexican Father was a loving but unsentimental assessment of cultural tensions between what he calls “Catholic Mexico” and “Protestant America” and the dilemma of being “Mexican American.” Days of Obligation was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction.

Over the years, he has written about a variety of subjects, from the death of America’s newspapers to the meaning of burritos to body-building. Since September 11th, he has been focused on religious violence. While Rodriguez is openly gay—has written poignantly of the AIDS epidemic and the deaths of many friends—he remains Roman Catholic. (Indeed, he often describes himself as “Irish Catholic”—because of the influence of Irish nuns and priests on his upbringing). He also describes himself as “brown”—belonging to a mix of races. And he predicted the eventual “browning” of America in his most book, Brown: The Last Discovery of America. In 1993, he was awarded the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. It is the highest award the federal government gives to recognize work done in the humanities.

Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson was born in 1947 in Sandpoint, Idaho. After attending high school in Sandpoint she went to Brown University, graduating in 1966; she then enrolled in the graduate program in English at the University of Washington, where she started writing her first novel, Housekeeping (1981), which tells the story of two girls growing up in rural Idaho in the mid-1900s and is regarded by many as an American classic; it received the PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

After the publication of Housekeeping, Robinson began writing essays and book reviews for Harper’s, Paris Review, and The New York Times Book Review. She also served as writer-in-residence and visiting professor at numerous colleges and universities, including the University of Kent in England, Amherst College, and the University of Massachusetts. Her second book, Mother Country: Britain, The Welfare State and Nuclear Pollution (1988), revealed the extensive environmental damage caused by the nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, in the north of England; the book evolved from an essay that she wrote for Harper’s Review and was a finalist for the National Book Award. A decade later, Robinson published a collection of essays entitled The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought.  Gilead, her second novel, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in November 2004, is an intimate tale of fathers and sons and the spiritual battles they face. The work won universal acclaim from critics and the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her book, Home, published in 2008 – a companion piece to Gilead – is an elegant variation on the parable of the prodigal son’s return.

Ron Hansen

Ron Hansen was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and educated at Creighton University, the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, and at Stanford University, where he held a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship. He has received fellowships from the Michigan Society of Fellows, the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Lyndhurst Foundation, and was presented with an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Professor Hansen has taught fiction and screenwriting at such institutions as Stanford, Michigan, Cornell, Iowa, Arizona, and is now the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University, where he earned an M.A. in Spirituality in 1995. He is the author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: A Novel (1983), Mariette in Ecstasy: A Novel (1991), Atticus: A Novel (1996), Hitler’s Niece: A Novel (1999), and Exiles (2008) about the 1875 sinking of the ocean liner S/S Deutschland, whose victims included five Roman Catholic nuns.

Paul Elie

Paul Elie is a Senior Fellow with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Director of the American Pilgrimage Project, a university partnership with StoryCorps based in the Berkley Center. His work deals primarily with the ways religious ideas are given expression in literature, the arts, music, and culture in the broadest sense. He is the author of two books, The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage (2003) and Reinventing Bach (2012), and of essays and articles for The Atlantic, The New York Times, Commonweal, and other periodicals. In the American Pilgrimage Project he is examining the ways religious beliefs inform the experiences of the American people at crucial moments in their lives.