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Spring 2006 Humanities Symposium

The Power of Human Imagination

Imagination is a profound force in human life, and as such a tangible object of humanities-based study. Imagination gives birth to creative works that enrich our lives with aesthetic inspiration and beauty (e.g. literature, film, and the arts). It also enables innovative works of the intellect that cause humans to see and interact with the world in new ways (e.g. research discoveries in science, technology, theory, as well as entrepreneurial endeavor). Imagination opens the way to visionary and prophetic works of extravagant hope (e.g. the ideals of faith, love, reconciliation, peace, and service). And imagination also fuels the sinister works of human fear (e.g. racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry, hatred, and the demonizing and destruction of those different or unknown). Indeed, we even see the power of imagination by its absence, when the failure of imagination leads to dehumanizing social policy, intellectual and ideological insularity, religious idolatry, and unjust violence.

The 2006 Spring Humanities Symposium provides an opportunity for the Messiah College community to explore the many aspects of imagination as a driving force in human life. The Center for Public Humanities’ Executive Committee has planned this Symposium with hopes that it will provide the campus with a public intellectual conversation that contributes to our common life together and to our understanding of the wider world.

Sunday, February 19

The Musical Imagination, Part I

Messiah College Symphony Orchestra Concert
Tim Dixon, Conductor
Miller Auditorium

Professor Tim Dixon, director of orchestral activities, will speak briefly about the role of musical imagination in listening and musical interpretation.  Specific musical points will be demonstrated live with the orchestra and a performance will follow.

Monday, February 20
3:45-4:30 Opening Reception
Boyer Hall, Howe Atrium
4:30-6:00 Concurrent Faculty-Student Colloquia
1. Nurturing the Educated Imagination
(Boyer Center)
Boyer Hall 130

What does it mean to be an educated person? In today’s world, the definition is often limited to textbook notions that leave little room for imagination. This session will provide perspectives on how education from early childhood through undergraduate education may create space for nurturing learning that intersects the “facts” with imaginative responses to real world problems. The Boyer Fellows and Boyer Scholars on this panel will propose avenues to shape the purposeful, humane, and formative dimensions of the “educated imagination.”

2. Imagine All the People: Theatre, Violence, and Civic Dialogue
(Department of Theatre)
Boyer Hall 134

This session will consider current work in the Department of Theatre that engages these topics for the purpose of civic dialogue, including two student-directed productions during this academic year. A student-faculty panel will consider three essential themes: (1) the imagination as a violent sphere in which the artist is seemingly forced to make aesthetic choices, (2) the use of the dramatic imagination in a seemingly fictitious act of violence, (3) the way in which the imagination can be stifled in documentary theatre that addresses historic acts of violence. Brief scenes and/or monologues may be presented to provide context for the discussion.

3. Popular Imagination: How Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Reshaping Culture and Media
(Robin Lauermann, Politics & Chris Simmons, Communication)
Boyer Hall 138

Although Buffy ended its run in 2003, the departures from traditional television techniques and cultural representation have left an impact on the genre and its viewers that still functions today. Its creator Joss Whedon has provided a new forum for symbolic representation of and engagement with societal challenges. The faculty and student panelists will focus on two areas of analysis: the way in which Buffy has imaginatively resituated (1) the representation of the spiritual world and (2) the representation of gender roles.
6:30-8:00 Center for Public Humanities Lecture Series
Imagining God as Otherwise: John Caputo’s Theo-Poetics of Divine Weakness
John Caputo (Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities, Syracuse University)
B. Keith Putt (Professor of Philosophy, Samford University)
Boyer Hall 131

Theology relies on the creative capacity of the imagination, specifically in its potential to construct multiple concepts of the world as the locus of experience and of God as a vital part of our experience of the world. John Caputo’s post- secular theology of the love of God embodies this confluence of theology and imagination. Caputo recommends an abandonment of Hellenistic Greek categories used to describe God and a return to a biblical imagination of St. Paul in describing the “weakness of God” and the “logic of the cross” in 1 Corinthians 1-2, which results in a postmodern paradigm of open or relational theism in which God risks and is vulnerable. Professor Caputo will present his ideas briefly followed by a response by Professor B. Keith Putt, and then both will take questions and engage in conversation with the audience on this topic.
Tuesday, February 21
9:45-10:30 Chapel Address
O Mortal, Eat This Scroll: The Power of Biblical Imagination
Brian Smith (Teaching Pastor)
Brubaker Auditorium
4:00-5:30 Concurrent Faculty-Student Colloquia
1. Imagining the Unimaginable: Genocide in Germany and Rwanda
(Department of History)
Boyer Hall 130

The French proverb “If you understand it, you forgive it” poses an interesting dilemma for people trying to make sense of genocide. Making genocide imaginable implies making it rational, or providing the context for a sympathetic understanding. How then might Christians make sense of the unimaginable? This panel will explore the role of imagination in (1) demonizing and destroying other humans and (2) making sense of such actions. A comparative approach will be used in order to make the discussion relevant to a wide audience.

2. Visions of Community: Imagining Our Best Selves
(Anita Voelker, Education; Beth Mark, Library; & Cherie Fieser, Engle Memorial Collection)

Illustrations give rise to a variety of intellectual and emotional responses, one of which is imagining. Two paintings by the Carlisle artist Megan Lloyd-Thompson recently donated to the Ruth E. Engle Memorial Collection of Children’s Book Illustrations depict the evolution of a faith community in central Pennsylvania. A discussion of these paintings (including the artist herself) will explore audience responses and reactions to these fictive depictions in an imaginative exploration of the notion of community.

3. Imagining a CURE: Humanities in Service through Communication and Public Relations Management
(Nance McCown, Communication)
Boyer Hall 134

The students in COM 425 (Senior Communication Project: Public Relations Campaign) will present a synopsis of their semester’s work, demonstrating how applied communication can help turn imagination into reality for those in need of medical care. These seniors have developed a comprehensive media relations plan for CURE International, a service organization of medical professionals, with the goal of stirring the imagination of media consumers to consider joining CURE in its mission of bringing healing to the poorest of the poor.
7:00-8:30 Symposium Faculty Lecture Series
Boyer Hall 131
1. The Impact of Imagination on Society: Engineers Turn Ideas into Reality
(Carl Erikson, Engineering)

Human imagination is a key component in the engineering design process. Many wonderful products that we use as a society have become reality through the engineer’s abilities to imagine, design, build, and produce these items. The capacity of these products to improve the quality of life, to extend human lives, and to bring people closer together globally will be explored in this faculty lecture. In addition, some future areas for using our imagination to create products will be considered.

2. At Play in the Fields of the Lord: Nature, Imagination, and Stewardship
(David Foster, Environmental Science)

This faculty lecture focuses on the ways in which our imaginative reflection on our natural surroundings, having proven to be a powerful impetus for cultural expression and scientific investigation, can lead to a better understanding of the natural world itself and ultimately of the need for human stewardship. Such a holistic, inter-disciplinary approach is also at the heart of a liberal arts education; therefore, we shall consider how studies in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences can combine to enrich our understanding of imagination, nature, and stewardship of both.
9:00 screening

SAB Film Series

Parmer Cinema, Boyer 137

The Fisher King

Wednesday, February 22
4:00-5:30 Concurrent Faculty-Student Colloquia
Boyer Hall 131
1. Student Lectures
Imagining the Homeless (Danielle Forney, Communication)

Few of us at Messiah College will ever be homeless, and only a slightly larger number interact with the homeless on a regular basis. However, when we see a homeless person we immediately imagine things about that person, including the reason for the person’s current situation. The media, in particular the news media, have helped frame our imaginings of the homeless, thus influencing not only our personal responses but also the shaping of public social policy. Danielle will present the results of her senior honors project research on the social and media typologies of the homeless, with the hope that it will inform our own imaginative solutions to the problem of homelessness.

Violent Imaginations: Strategic Peacemaking in El Salvador and Nepal (Hierald Osorto, History)
Political violence is defined as any act that is directly and purposefully administered in the name of a political ideology, movement, or state. Political groups in El Salvador and Nepal have had just such a history of political violence, which have been driven by imagined futures of both Marxist/Maoist insurgents as well as of governmental officials and their armies. Yet while imagination often justifies violence in pursuit of an ideal future, peacemakers in the present must also use imagination to seek a rupture in the resulting cycle of violence that oppresses all people caught in the middle of these conflicts. Hierald will report on his recent research among guerilla groups and victims of violence in both El Salvador and Nepal, which will inform a discussion on the link between imagination and peacemaking.

2. Imaginative Transformations: Turning Fiction into Film
(Crystal Downing, English)
Boyer Hall 130

This panel of students will present papers written in Professor Downing’s Fiction to Cinema course, which explored the challenges faced and rewards achieved when translating fiction (in this case, short stories and novels) into film. Students will discuss with the audience the role that imagination played in re-imaging a literary narrative in the visual media of film.

3. The Quilt: A Visual History of Human Creativity
(Griswold House)
Boyer Hall 138

Human imagination is often visualized in the big monuments, buildings, bridges, and other structures of human ingenuity. Yet this approach ignores some everyday artifacts of imagination that are equally impressive works of human hands. This colloquium focuses on one of the most tangible examples of human imagination: the quilt. Students will present a comparative study of the quilt from simple necessity to the complex work of patterns and symbols. Furthermore, the social importance of the “quilting bee” or “quilting circle” will be explored as a fixture in community- building.
8:00-9:30 Keynote Address
Faith and the “Poetic” Imagination: Formation in the Gracious, Grace-Filled Life
Dr. Wendy Wright (Theologian, Creighton University)
Hostetter Chapel

Drawing upon the thought of a diverse cluster of figures from the Christian Humanist traditions, this keynote address will explore the formative capacity of the human imagination, the spiritual practices of cultivating a spacious and faith-filled imagination, and the arts of living humanely, graciously, and well.
Thursday, February 23
9:45-10:30 Alternative Chapel
Imagining Peace (Eric Seibert, Biblical Studies & Anne Marie Stoner-Eby, History)
Boyer Hall 131

Both the prophetic imagination (Walter Bruggeman) and the sociological imagination (C. Wright Mills) suggest that there are ways to respond to violence in more imaginative ways than with more violence. The key is to develop the imaginative skills to see alternatives to violence and then the tools to implement alternatives. Working from the perspectives of the biblical text and sociological theory, Professors Seibert and Eby anticipate stimulating a “peace imagination.” They will provide imaginative real-world examples of the use of non-violent approaches to work for justice and resolve conflict, and then engage the audience in a discussion of the role of imagination in peacemaking.
4:00-5:30 Keynote Address Talk-Back Session
Boyer Hall 131
A panel of faculty members and students will offer their responses to the keynote address given the evening before, and this will serve as a platform for wider conversation with the audience in this plenary talk-back session.
7:00-8:30 Symposium Faculty Lecture Series
Boyer Hall 131
1. Reading, Ethics, and Imagination
(Peter Powers, English)

Until very recently, western cultures have cast the act of reading as a passive role when compared to the more active, dramatic (and frankly more imaginative) act of writing. Reading has not been seen as something that is actively imaginative; it engages the imagination, but only to the degree that it is activated and shaped by the controlling power of the writer as expressed in his or her text. Yet postmodern versions of reading now make the text the passive partner which the reader recreates through his or her own intentions and imaginings. Professor Power’s lecture will address these competing visions of human textual imagination, with particular attention to the issue of the ethical implications of reading that result from this debate.

2. Most Rare Vision: Shakespeare and the Risks of Imagination
(Samuel Smith, English)

Professor Smith will speak on the representation of human imagination in Shakespeare’s plays. While Shakespeare acknowledges and to some extent sympathizes with his culture’s suspicion of the imagination – the perils of imagination show most poignantly in Othello and Macbeth – he also repeatedly asserts that what makes life worth living is impossible without imagination: love, hope, and faith. Come and hear about Shakespeare’s views on the role human imagination plays in our common search for love, hope, and faith.
9:00 screening

SAB Film Series

Parner Cinema, Boyer 137

The Fisher King

Friday, February 24
4:00-5:30 Center for Public Humanities Lecture Series
Tolkien, Lewis, and the Power of Imagination
Gregory Bassham (Chair, Department of Philosophy, King’s College)
Boyer Hall 131

In this guest lecture, Professor Gregory Bassham will speak on the power of human imagination as it is expressed in the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. These authors’ creative work is now a half a century old, yet it continues to have a strong hold on the imagination of our society, and for good reason. If you’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia (or seen either in their epic cinema versions) the power of human imagination in these works is already apparent to you.
7:00-8:30 Symposium Faculty Lecture Series
The Musical Imagination, Part II (Richard Roberson, Dean , School of the Arts)
Poorman Recital Hall

Professor Richard Roberson, dean of the School of the Arts, will offer a lecture/recital in which he will speak on the role of imagination in listening to music and in musical interpretation by the artist. Dean Roberson will demonstrate these facets of the musical imagination in relation to specific piano pieces which he will perform.
9:30 screening

SAB Film Series

Parmer Cinema, Boyer 137

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Saturday, February 25

7:00 p.m. screening &

9:30 p.m. screening

SAB Film Series
Parmer Cinema, Boyer 137

The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Monday, February 27
4:00-5:30 Concurrent Faculty-Student Colloquia
1. Some Art/Some Antics
(Matthew Roth, English)
Boyer Hall 130

This is a collaborative art colloquium involving students in the creative arts. Groups of students from various disciplines will present collaborative works and discuss the functioning of imagination in their works. The colloquium will therefore provide concrete examples of the power of human imagination in our own students.

2. Truth Through a Child’s Eyes: A Glimpse at Fairytale and Fable
(Humanities House)
Boyer Hall 131

Students living in Humanities House will explore the literary forms of fairytale, myth, legend, fable, and parable for a deeper understanding of how these genres communicate and preserve truth about human existence in terms that children can comprehend. In particular, they will consider the power of these genres in shaping truth in the imaginative spaces of the child’s inner world.

3. Imagining a Sustainable World
Boyer Hall 134

The students of the Earthkeepers Environmental Club will lead a colloquium discussion about the ways that imaginative thinking can help forge a future where human needs can be met in a sustainable fashion. The emphasis here is on proactive creativity in service to both human needs and environmental stability, which need not be considered mutually exclusive.
5:30-6:30 Closing Reception
Boyer Hall, Howe Atrium
7:00-8:30 Symposium Faculty Lecture Series
Divine Imagination in the Old Testament Carried into Action
(Gordon Brubacher, Biblical Studies)
Boyer Hall 131

God does “Imagination Aided Design/Manufacturing” according to the Bible. From Genesis I onward, and notably in the prophetic visions of a better world, we find the divine imagination at work, actively thinking up or picturing new things, and then making them happen. Since humanity is created in the image of God, how might we celebrate this biblical model of imagination and carry it into action in the world? How might we do this while mindful of the respective divine and human spheres of creativity and action? Professor Brubacher will speak to these questions and then engage in a discussion with the audience about the connections between the imagination and the image of God.
Duration of the Symposium Installation
Imagination as a Room of One’s Own
(Beth Andrews, English)
Boyer Hall, Howe Atrium

This installation will celebrate student imagination through a combination of textual and visual expressions. The premise is that academic research can combine the creative and the critical, that we can present our “work” in various forms and spaces.

Visit the following pages for information from past Symposia:

2011 Spring Humanities Symposium

2010 Spring Humanities Symposium

2009 Spring Humanities Symposium

2008 Spring Humanities Symposium

2007 Spring Humanities Symposium
2005 Spring Humanities Symposium

2004 Spring Humanities Symposium

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