Baylor University Symposium Will Focus on Higher Education and Secularization to Commemorate the Birth of Literary Genius Robert Browning

Sept. 14, 2012

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WACO, Texas (Sept. 13, 2012) - Ever since the Enlightenment, Western Christians have striven to come to terms with modern science, to understand the impact of advances in geology, astronomy and higher criticism of Scripture, and to assess how to incorporate those insights into education.

On Thursday, Sept. 20, as part of Baylor University's commemoration of the bicentennial of the birth of Robert Browning, a symposium called "The Cross and the Book" will examine secularization and higher education in the 19th century, when struggles about those issues became central to public debate and national politics, particularly in Victorian England.

Baylor has an astonishing collection of Browning materials at its Armstrong Browning Library, marking Browning's achievements and the culture of his day, when faith and science seemed so inextricably linked. The event will be hosted by Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion.

A panel discussion will be at 10:30 a.m. in Cox Lecture Hall of Armstrong Browning Library, 710 Speight Ave.

Panel participants will be professors Stephen G. Alter, chair of the department of history at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass.; Susan Hanssen, associate professor of history at the University of Dallas; and Andrea Turpin, assistant professor of history at Baylor University.

Alter will discuss the late William Rainey Harper's preparation to become the first president of the University of Chicago, a premier research institution backed by America's richest Baptist -- John D. Rockefeller.

Hanssen will explore the secularization of Harvard as the iconic narrative of American higher education, and Turpin will speak about the entrance of women into higher education in large numbers during the religious liberalization of American higher education.

Afternoon lectures will be in the Meditation Room of Armstrong Browning Library and will include:

� 2 p.m., Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor, on "A Critic in the Desert: Robert Browning and the Limits of Plain Historic Fact"

� 3:45 p.m., Timothy Larsen, (Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College) on "The Victorian Crisis of Doubt"

Admission is free. To register, visit


Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute's mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict. While always striving for appropriate scientific objectivity, ISR scholars treat religion with the respect that sacred matters require and deserve.

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