Our annual yearlong Marty Center seminar generates careful and insightful scholarship that deploys conceptual tools and interpretive methods to advance thought within a discipline in the study of religion -- and provokes new work at the intersection of disciplines.
The Marty Seminar is composed of junior fellows who are writing dissertations on religion in the Divinity School or in other departments of the University of Chicago, and senior research fellows who are in residence at the Marty Center while on sabbatical leave from their own universities. The goal of the yearlong seminar is to generate careful and insightful scholarship that deploys conceptual tools and interpretive methods to advance thought within a discipline in the study of religion, and to provoke new work at the intersection of disciplines. The seminar further challenges fellows to step back from the immediacies of specialized research to ask themselves how that research will contribute to the institutions and the society in which they pursue their scholarly vocations.
Both the Senior Research Fellows and Junior Dissertation Fellows will participate in the seminar, which is designed to advance interdisciplinary research in all areas of religious studies. Junior Fellows will be required to present their individual projects not only within the seminar, before their peers, but before public interlocutors at a special spring meeting. The seminar helps participants articulate their projects in ways that will be intelligible to specialists and non-specialists alike.
The seminar's format has varied slightly from year to year. Usually, however, a fellow distributes a paper in advance, and the seminar opens with a formal response by another fellow representing a different disciplinary specialization. This response is then followed by at least an hour of general discussion. Each fellow presents at least once and responds at least once. Dissertation fellows are encouraged to present papers directly related to their dissertations, while senior research fellows usually present some aspect of the research project in which they are currently engaged.
Over the years, many fellows have valued the seminar as a highly rewarding experience, and one difficult to replicate elsewhere. Criticisms, questions, suggestions, and encouragement from a broad range of perspectives give the participants a greater sense of potential audience response, as well as exposure to a variety of approaches. Many have reported that they have revised their work in light of the seminars, their ideas enhanced and refined by their experiences at the Center.