On November 12, 2011, I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of undergraduate and graduate students attending the most recent program of the Commonweal Conversations: "The Writing Life: What Does Faith Got to Do with It?" The excursion was generously sponsored by the Center for Catholic Studies and led by Dr. Nancy Enright.
The title of the panel discussion held the critical question of the night. When it comes to writing, what role does one’s faith play? Does it have any influence? Does this influence manifest itself differently for different writers?
Commonweal, an independent lay Catholic journal known for its interest in social justice issues, hosted a panel of three contemporary Catholic authors, Paul Elie, Alice McDermott and Valerie Sayers. Their conversation, moderated by Rand Richards Cooper, tried to shed light on this important question.
I found myself taken in by the discussion as panelists tried to explain their personal writing and inclusion of faith. I was struck by two authors’ explanations. These fiction writers do not purposefully inject their personal faith into their writing; rather, they write as a way to figure things out. They do not plan every detail and inclusion of faith. Through their writing, they come to their destination. I found this a fascinating insight. They just pick up and write, putting faith in their inspiration to guide them. The end result is a work that has faith undertones. I wonder if this is perhaps because their method encourages their personal beliefs to join their work. From the heart and mind, to the pen and paper, the inspiration and faith flow seamlessly.
Later, during the questions, one attendee addressed faith writing for children’s versus adult literature. Was there a difference in the representation of religion and faith in children’s books? The panel answered, “Good writing is good writing,” and left it at that. Yet, this question continuously played on my mind long after the panel was dismissed.
Is there a difference in the presentation of faith in writings for children and adults? I thought so. For the rest of the night, I discussed this issue of faith and writing styles with the Seton Hall faculty and students. As we compared the styles of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, I realized in the typical classroom setting I would never have had such a laid back and in-depth conversation over such topics. This is a goal of the Center for Catholic Studies: to provide Seton Hall students with enriching opportunities to grow in faith and knowledge and get thinking and discussing meaningful topics with professors outside the classroom. It was a fun and thought-provoking experience, and I cannot wait for events to come!
Elizabeth is a Junior studying Elementary education with a specialization in Special Education and History.
About the Center for Catholic Studies:
Seton Hall University’s Center for Catholic Studies is dedicated to fostering a dialogue between the Catholic intellectual tradition and all areas of study and contemporary culture. To that end, it sponsors an undergraduate degree program for students, focusing on interdisciplinary studies, with opportunities for community, service, scholarship and foreign study. The Center is the home of the G.K. Chesterton Institute, the Bernard J. Lonergan Institute, the Micah Institute for Business and Economics and their publications. The Center offers study and research, as well as an ongoing program on faith and culture, social justice, business and the economy, for audiences world-wide.
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