Robert Penn Warren lecturer to address faith, politics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The role of faith in public discourse will be the topic of a provocative inaugural lecture by the first Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities at Vanderbilt.
Colin Dayan speaks on “Faith, Stray Dogs and the Law” at 4 p.m. Dec. 8 in 101 Buttrick Hall, with a reception to follow. The public is invited.

“In spite of the current secular orientation in our thinking, or perhaps, because of it, I don’t think we can shape or defend an adequate conception of basic human equality apart from some religious foundation,” Dayan said.

Dayan’s research spans Caribbean literature to law, religion and history. She was recruited to Vanderbilt last year and currently holds a Guggenheim Fellowship for her ongoing work on slavery, incarceration and the law of persons.
“Not every person who believes in God reduces ‘moral values’ to attacks on abortion, judicial activism or gay rights,” Dayan said. “For every prohibition in the Bible against homosexuality, there are far more numerous calls for equality and care for the poor.

Dayan will reflect on a few key figures in the American intellectual tradition, including Herman Melville and John Locke, and consider the consequences of discarding the contradictions, ambiguities and possibilities of a life of faith.

The Robert Penn Warren Professorship in the Humanities was established by anonymous donors to ensure that the teaching of the humanities continues to flourish at Vanderbilt. Warren, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for All the King’s Men, graduated from Vanderbilt in 1925 and later came back to teach at the university.

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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