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Divine Comedies: Humor, Harmony and Redemption
Art & Soul
Laughter and tears mark two of life's poles confronted by all. While tragedy permits the desperate troubles of humankind to prevail, comedy describes a deeper response, one embraced by those who bear a hope that is not quixotic or fleeting. Indeed, in the story of Jesus of Nazareth, Christians locate that Love that makes possible a joyful, beneficent laughter, a celebration of the redeeming surprises of God's providential goodness.
For this reason, humor is one of the most sublime of the divine gifts. It enables us to endure the darkest times, display grace under pressure and—on occasion—tweak the high and mighty. The great creative artists bear witness to the transcendent quality of humor as a means of redemption, sometimes in bold, lavish strokes, sometimes in a still, small voice. Humor, tragicomedy, wit, satire, and even folly—in all these myriad forms are found fitting subjects for exploration and celebration.
Charlene is one of the few writers to move easily between fiction and nonfiction. Her wit and insight have made books like Don't Miss Your Kids, Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This and How to Eat Humble Pie perennial best-sellers. But she is probably known for the wildly popular Welcome to Patronville, including Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet? and Dearest Dorothy, Slow Down. Visit the charming inhabitants of Patronville at www.welcometopatronville.com.
We don't care how many prestigious, intellectually stimulating, creatively challenging conferences you've attended; you've never seen anything quite like this. Truly. Jeremy's presentations on theology and the arts are dynamic, substantive, energetic: in a word, riveting. Professionally trained as a pianist, oboist and conductor, he also teaches systematic theology at Cambridge in England. His latest book, Theology, Music, and time, is published by Cambridge University Press.
Michele Andrea Bowen
Few people know and love the African American church better than Michele. Her first two novels, Church Folk and Second Sunday: A Novel, generated rapturous reviews and enough laughter for a week of Sundays, even among readers who have never darkened the door of a church in their lives. You can meet her yourself at www.micheleandreabowen.com.
Mary Cartledgehayes is the author of To Love Delilah: Claiming the Women of the Bible and Grace: A Memoir. Her work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and Christian Century and has most recently been anthologized in The Wisdom of Daughters: Two Decades of Christian Feminist Writing. Recent awards include an honorable mention for best religious writing of 2003 from the Associated Church Press and first place for Best Religious Book of the Year from the National Federation of Press Women.
With a B.A in English education from University of Central Florida and a M.Ed. in gifted education from the University of Arkansas, Janice Elsheimer has long had a passion for helping gifted underachievers to use and not squander their God-given talents and abilities. After seventeen years of teaching high school students, Janice and eventually chose to teach part-time so that she could begin to answer her own creative call in the areas of writing and motivational speaking. Her concern for gifted underachievers, coupled with the reawakening of her interest in developing her writing talents, led her to a new interest: encouraging artistically talented adults to develop their own creative potential. This interest led to her writing the 2002 ECPA award-winning book, The Creative Call: an Artist's Response to the Way of the Spirit. Janice currently divides her time between teaching young gifted students and rising to her own potential as a writer, speaker, retreat leader, musician, gardener, wife and mother, and she is working on her second book with Shaw Books/WaterBrook Press, which explores the relationships between gardening, God, and the good life.
His novel Peace Like a River has become one of those books about which readers become passionate--even obnoxious: everyone they know must read it immediately, and must love it as much as they do. Since its publication, Peace Like a River has been chosen as Book Sense's Book of the Year for 2002, and as a Best Book of 2001 by Time Magazine, The LA Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Denver Post, and has been chosen by several cities, including Rochester, New York, and Denver, Colorado, as their One Book city-wide reading project. Having dreamed of writing fiction since his teen years, Enger co-wrote five mystery novels with his brother, Lin, under the name L.L. Enger. That endeavor, though, brought neither fame nor fortune—and not many readers. So by the time he began Peace Like a River, Enger had shelved his hopes for publishing glory and was aiming only to write a rollicking good story, one he could read to his wife, Robin, and two young sons. In the process, he produced a novel whose plot never lags, and whose cast of characters is as vivid and memorable as any in contemporary fiction. Formerly a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio, Enger currently writes full time from his 56-acre farm outside Aitkin, Minnesota.
Robert is a true renaissance man among writers. He's published a number of novels, plays, short stories, and nonfiction books (on a variety of topics). Recently retired as from a long and successful tenure teaching creative writing at Trinity University, Robert's books include Growing Up Sullen Baptist, The Sounds of Rescue, In the House of the Lord, Living With Hyenas, North to Yesterday, The Devil's Tiger, and others.
Greg Garrett is the author of the novels Free Bird, Cycling, and Sanctuary, and the non-fiction books The Gospel Reloaded (with Chris Seay) and Holy Superheroes! An award-winning professor at Baylor University and a past winner of the international William Faulkner Prize for Fiction, Greg lives in Austin, Texas, where he attends the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest.
Some have called Ginger Geyer's sculptures "playfully prophetic." Her sculpture has been exhibited in various galleries and museums, including the Luce Center for Art & Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., and regularly at Edith Baker/Cidnee Patrick Gallery in Dallas. Her sculpture and writing have recently been published in, among others, Image: A Journal of the Arts & Religion, The Dallas Morning News, and The Christian Century. Ginger just completed an installation for a major food corporation, where she also instigated a project to alleviate hunger, with art serving as an agent of social change. She serves as an arts consultant to the H.E.B. Foundation's Laity Lodge, an ecumenical retreat center in the Texas Hill Country. Before moving to Austin, she worked at the Kimbell Art Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art. She received B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from S.M.U. and, most recently, an M.A. in pastoral ministry from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, where she is an adjunct professor.
At 26, Kaye Gibbons wrote her first novel, Ellen Foster, which garnered widespread literary plaudits, including the Modern Library's choosing it as one of the 200 Best Novels in English since 1950, as well as the Sue Kaufman Prize for first fiction from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Special Citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, and the Louis D. Rubin Writing Award. Now a classic, it's taught in high schools and universities, and was produced by Hallmark Hall of Fame for CBS. Ellen Foster and Kaye's second novel, A Virtuous Woman, were chosen together as one Oprah Book Club selection in 1998, landing the #2 spot on the New York Times best-seller list for many weeks. Kaye's subsequent novels, A Cure For Dreams, Charms for the Easy Life, Sights Unseen, and On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon have also earned rave reviews and stacks of prestigious awards. Kaye has read and lectured to sold-out audiences nationwide. With domestic sales of more than 4.2 million copies and numerous world-wide translations, Entertainment Weekly described her as "one of the most lyrical writers working today." If you haven't seen her in person, you must: she's thought-provoking, insightful—and hilarious.
An award-winning writer and director, Chris Hansen's short films have played at film festivals around the country, netting him an Angel Award from Excellence in Media. He has received a number of accolades for his screenwriting, including achieving quarter finalist status in the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting and placing in the top 20 overall in the Slamdance Screenplay Competition. One of his scripts was recently turned into the independent feature film Monsters Don't Get to Cry, directed in L.A. by Kurando Mitsutake. He is an assistant professor of Communication Studies at Baylor University.
Bruce Kuhn performed on Broadway in Les Miserable until joining the national tour of the Broadway musical Chess. Three seasons at Actors Theatre in Louisville, KY, saw him in roles as diverse as D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Since his marriage to a Dutch-American painter, Bruce has lived in The Netherlands and makes his living touring one-man shows, including his hilarious, incisive The Gospel of Luke, interpreted in the spirit of Alec McCowen's Broadway hit The Gospel of Mark, and The Cottonpatch Gospels, Harry Chapin's Off Broadway sensation with retells portions of the New Testament by placing Christ in the segregated South.
Teaching courses in Theology and Film and Theology and Humor, Terry Lindvall is currently a Visiting Professor at Duke Divinity School and at Virginia Wesleyan College. He has produced over 50 award-winning films, and most recently has worked with the Newington-Cropsey Foundation to produce The Cradle of Genius DVD, a story of classical music and divine inspiration dealing with Brahams, Puccini and Richard Strauss. His publications include Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of CS Lewis, The Mother of All Laughter: Sarah and the Genesis of Comedy; The Silents of God: Silent American Film and Religion, and the forthcoming The Cinema of the Brazen Serpent: Origins of the Christian Film Industry.
Kyle Matthews has emerged as one of Christian music's most prolific songwriters, having penned such favorites as "If You Want Me To," co-written and recorded by Ginny Owens and "God Forbid," recorded by Point of Grace. "We Fall Down," recorded by Donnie McClurkin, earned Kyle a Dove Award, a Stellar Award for Song of the Year, and ASCAP's 2002 award for Gospel Song of the Year. In 2003, Kyle received a Dove Award nomination for his song "The Most Inconvenient Christmas" cut by the Oakridge Boys. His "I Cannot Turn Away" landed the #1 spot for five straight weeks at every Christian Inspirational Chart published. Kyle also has received critical acclaim for his solo projects, including See For Yourself (Benson), Sing Down (Grassroots) and "Timeless Christmas Child." His music dares to ask the difficult questions of life. But for Kyle, wrestling with the complexities of life calls for a healthy balance of humor and playfulness.
Kristin Ohlson is the author of Stalking the Divine, a memoir which won the American Society of Journalists and Authors' Best Nonfiction Book Award for 2004 and was praised for "beautiful writing and gritty honesty" in a starred review by Publishers Weekly. According to Catholic News Service, Stalking the Divine "could easily become the spiritual classic of our time." Ohlson has published articles and essays in the New York Times, Salon, Ms. Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Poets & Writers, and Sojourners, among many others, and she is a recipient of the Ohio Arts Council's major fellowship for fiction
The author of the recently published and widely acclaimed Dylan's Vision of Sin, Christopher Ricks is not only one of the world's foremost scholars on (and, by the way, fans of) performer and poet Bob Dylan, he is also generally acknowledged to be one of the most brilliant literary scholars writing today. And his skill extends to communicating his erudition to students: Boston magazine described him as the greatest teacher in the post-Socrates era. Having taught at the universities of Bristol and Cambridge, and most recently at Boston University, Ricks was recently named Professor of Poetry at Oxford, where he was educated. His visiting professorships include posts at Berkeley, Stanford, Smith, Harvard, Wellesley and Brandeis. In addition to his treatise on Dylan, Ricks has published key texts on Milton, Keats, Eliot and Beckett, and has edited numerous anthologies, including the New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse and the Oxford Book of English Verse. Noted for his lively writing style, the inimitable Ricks combines a savvy, even mischievous sense of humor with voracious reading and scintillating intellect.
She's one of those key people whom Newsweek, CNN, PBS, and the New York Times call when they need a quote from an intelligent, articulate Christian. The author of two dozen books and numerous essays and articles, most of them on religion and spirituality, she is Contributing Editor in Religion for Publishers Weekly and the winner of the 1996 Mays Award, one of the book industry's most prestigious awards for lifetime achievement in writing and publishing. Two more crucial facts about Phyllis: she lives in rural Tennessee, about which she writes with great devotion, and she's the mother of seven—yes, seven—children. So leave behind those "no time to write" excuses when you come hear Phyllis talk!
R. Scott Walker
Scott Walker is the author of numerous works of nonfiction and devotional reading, including Understanding Christianity: Looking Through the Windows of God, Glimpses of God: Stories That Point the Way, and Liferails: Holding Fast to God's Promises. His recent narrative nonfiction book based on an ancestor's letters, Hell's Broke Loose in Georgia: Survival in a Civil War Regiment, is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press. Scott pastors First Baptist Church, Waco, and has appeared at every Art & Soul since its inception.
A few years back World magazine called Lauren Winner "The Christian Cosmo girl." But if Helen Gurley Brown ever wrote a five part scholarly series on current work in the field of Jewish-Christian relations, like Lauren's work in Books and Culture, we haven't read it. We also loved her autobiographical Girl Meets God, or her recent, more devotional text, Madhouse Sabbath. In addition, she's the co-author of the definitive Protestantism in America.
Ralph C. Wood
Ralph Wood, University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from Texas A&M University at Commerce, as well as M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. At Baylor he teaches in the departments of English and Religion, as well as the Truett Theological Seminary. His major book, first published in 1988 and still in print, is entitled The Comedy of Redemption: Christian Faith and Comic Vision in Four American Novelists (Flannery O'Conner, Walker Percy, John Updike, and Peter De Vries). He serves as an editor-at-large for the Christian Century, as book-review editor for Perspectives in Religious Studies, and on the editorial board of the Flannery O'Connor Review. His most recent books are entitled Contending for the Faith: The Church's Engagement with Culture, The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in the Lord of the Rings and Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South. His book on Tolkien has sold more than 25,000 copies, and he has been invited to give dozens of lectures on Tolkien at major universities and churches across the U. S. and in Canada.
Thursday, April 7, 2005
12:00 to 1:30 p.m.
1:30 to 3:00 p.m.
Christopher Ricks, Oxford University: Bob Dylan: Your Prayers Like Rhymes
3:30 to 5:00 p.m.
Fools for God
Satire on the Newsstand
6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Art Gallery Reception
7:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Friday, April 8, 2005
8:30 to 10:00 a.m.
Ministry, Writing, Storytelling, and Humor
Faith and Humor
Telling Tales: Revelations and Obfuscations
10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
12:00 to 1:30 p.m.
1:30 to 3:00 p.m.
Race and Redemption: Readings and Remarks
Musical and Dramatic Performances
Imagination and the Other
Humor and Belief in a Postmodern Age
Southern Writers I
Comedy, the Bible, Literature
3:30 to 5:00 p.m.
The Restless Heart: Readings
The Indispensability of Parody
Humor and Comedy in the Latin Spiritual Classics
Humor in the Face of Suffering and Evil
Studies of Poets
5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
7:30 to 9:00 p.m.
9:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Great Hall Reception
Saturday, April 9, 2005
8:30 to 10:00
Humor in a Fallen World
Southern Writers II
Chesterton and Lewis on the Christian Engagement with Art and Culture
10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
12:00 to 1:30 p.m.
1:30 to 3:00 p.m.
Humor in Heaven and Earth
Humor and Healing: Comic Relief (panel)
Wit as Moral Corrective
3:30 to 5:00 p.m.
Creator, Creature and Humor
Dantean Comedy: Explorations and Applications