Events & Lectures

The Program in Scripture and the Arts is pleased to present our events calendar. Please check back often to see events as they are posted.

2016-2017 Events

The Boston University Program in Scripture and the Arts Presents “The Unfolding of Scripture Through Movement”

The Program for Scripture and the Arts is proud to present a brief preview of the speakers featured in this coming year’s events! This posting will be updated as more details about the events become available. Mark your calendars for an exciting year of meaning in movement!

Thursday, November 3, 5:30 PM: Yolanda Covington-Ward Lecture
Lecture: Gesture and Power
Sargent (635 Commonwealth Ave), Room 102

Yolanda Covington-Ward is a professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Trained as an anthropologist, she is the author of Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo (2015, Duke University Press). Her research interests revolve around the relationship between social connections, interpersonal interactions, and group identities, and how they impact and are impacted by physical bodies. She has conducted extensive ethnographic research in the Democratic Republic of Congo and among Liberian communities in the United States. Her lecture will focus on embodiment and religion as explored in her recent book. We are excited to bring this important work to colleagues in religion, literature, anthropology, and African studies.

Friday, November 4th, 10:00-11:00AM: Yolanda Covington-Ward
William O. Brown Seminar Room (505), African Studies Center (232 Bay State Rd)

Professor Covington-Ward will hold a workshop for faculty and graduate students on Friday, November 4, from 10 AM -11:30 AM in the William O. Brown Seminar Room (505) in the African Studies Center (232 Bay State Rd). The workshop will be on her ongoing work on Liberian diasporas entitled “I Don’t Even Know Monrovia in the First Place”: Displaced Bodies and Shifting Identities in the Liberian Diaspora. Please RSVP for a pre-circulated paper: More details found here.

Monday, February 13, 2:30-4:00 PM: Jeffrey S. Shoulson
Forum: Mapping and Unmapping Jewish History in Early Modern Bibles
Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, 2nd Floor Library (147 Bay State Rd) 

Boston University Jewish Studies Research Forum and the BU Program in Scripture and the Arts are pleased to welcome Professor Jeffrey S. Shoulson. Shoulson is Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, Professor of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, and Professor of English at the University of Connecticut. He is also author of Milton and the Rabbis: Hebraism, Hellenism, and Christianity (2001) and Fictions of Conversion: Jews, Christians, and Cultures of Change in Early Modern England (2013). He is also co-editor of Hebraica Veritas? Christian Hebraists and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe (2004).

“Mapping and Unmapping Jewish History in Early Modern Bibles” will examine the role played by maps depicting the Holy Land and other biblical locations—printed in Bibles as well as in other accounts of the region—in the construction of spaces construed as “Jewish.”

Monday, March 27, 5:30 PM: Leah Lowthorp and Finnian Moore Gerety, with Frank Korom, Moderator
Lecture: Performing Sanskrit Scripture in Kerala, India
Photonics Colloquium Room, Photonics Building, 9th Floor (8 St. Mary’s Street)

Leah Lowthorp holds a dual doctoral degree in Anthropology and Folklore & Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University. As part of her dissertation work on the impact of UNESCO recognition of Kūtiyāttam as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in Kerala, India, she was trained in the techniques and performance of the tradition. She has a unique ability to bridge the divide between “study of” and “participation in” this tradition, and in her lecture/demonstration she will share her perspective on “the ways artists emically conceive of rituality in relation to contemporary practice both inside and outside of the temple.”

Finnian M. Gerety holds a doctoral degree from the Department of South Asian Studies at Harvard University and is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. He works on ritual, text, and the senses in South Asian religions, with a focus on Hindu traditions of India. He has authored an article soon to appear in The Journal of Asian Ethnology entitled “Digital Guru: Embodiment, Technology, and the Transmission of Traditional Knowledge in Kerala,” which explores the manner in which the Nambudiri Brahmins of the South Indian state of Kerala transmit “what may be the oldest surviving musical culture in South Asia, a fixed oral tradition of sacred songs used in ritual (sāmaveda). Without recourse to written notation, Nambudiri practitioners teach songs face-to-face, using their voices and a distinctive system of hand gestures to convey melodies to their students.”

Frank Korom is Professor of Religion and Anthropology at Boston University.

Monday, March 27, 2:30-3:45: Leah Lowthorp

Workshop will be held during Professor Kyna Hamill’s TH 102, Dramatic Literature Course. All members of the BU community are welcome to attend. Please email for more information.

Monday, April 24, 5:30 PM: Margot Fassler
Planetarium Presentation: Cosmos and Creation in the Twelfth Century: An Interpretation of Genesis 1
Boston Museum of Science Planetarium

Margot Fassler is a musicologist known for her innovative work at the intersection of music, liturgy, and theology in medieval European Christianity. Before taking up her current position in the departments of music and theology at Notre Dame, she taught for many years at the Institute for Sacred Music at Yale University, serving as director for ten years. Her most recent book, The Virgin of Chartres: Making History through Liturgy and the Arts (Yale University Press, 2011), is a prize-winning exploration of the intersections between liturgy, theology, and architecture at the famous Chartres Cathedral in France.

Her newest work on Hildegard of Bingen, supported by a Guggenheim and an ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship, explores the way that liturgy, theology, music, drama, and the visual arts work together. Fassler has worked with digital artist Christian Jara and the planetarium staff at the University of Notre Dame to develop a digital model of Hildegard’s complex visualization of creation. This model of the universe, based on Hildegard’s treatise Scivias, is a full-dome digital presentation with music, created by Christian Jara and Margot Fassler, with a soundtrack by musicians from the Notre Dame Program in Sacred Music based on chants by Hildegard relating to her vision of the cosmos as it was created and spins in time toward its end.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a German nun, a prophet who wrote theological treatises, biblical commentary, nearly 400 letters, poetry and drama; she composed music, and designed art works. She was a scientist too, and had great interest in the cosmos, its creation, and its meanings as a work of divine inspiration. To display this work Fassler and Jara constructed a model depicting stages of the “Cosmic Egg,” from Hildegard’s description of a big bang within a dark chaos to a spinning and fully zoomable globe that grows through six days of development, enhanced by music composed by Hildegard as a companion to the text/illustration.

Reading Between Word and Image Lecture Series: “The Sacred Art of Ethiopia” with Gary Vikan

Monday April 4, 2016

The Program in Scripture and the Arts is proud to present the third and final speaker in its 2015-2016 speaker series, Gary Vikan speaking on “The Sacred Art of Ethiopia.” Professor Vikan, the Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carleton College, was also the director of the Walters Art Museum for 18 years and brings a wide range of expertise to his brief visit to Boston University. Professor Vikan will engage with how Ethiopian Christian art is distinctive from that of Byzantium and “western” Christianity in style and iconography as well as in the ritual of its use, how Jesus has been understood and portrayed in Ethiopia, and who the great Ethiopian artist Fere Seyon was in this context. He will discuss the history and character of Ethiopian Christian art—icons, manuscripts, and crosses—from its first tentative appearance on fourth-century coinage to the eighteenth century. The lecture will draw heavily on objects in the Walters Art Museum collection in Baltimore, which is the finest of its kind outside of Ethiopia, but will also address other works, including the great “Holy Land” architectural complex at Lalibela.

Reading Between Word and Image Lecture Series: “Holy Beds and Holy Families: Encounters with Devotional Objects in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” with Caroline Walker Bynum

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Program in Scripture and the Arts is proud to present the second speaker in its 2015-2016 speaker series, Caroline Walker Bynum, from the Institute for Advanced Study. Professor Bynum is a preeminent scholar in the field of Medieval Christian Studies, and her work has been instrumental in introducing the concept of gender into the study of medieval Christianity. In this lecture, she will present material thematically linked to her most recent publication, Christian Materiality. At an exhibit in Detroit fifty-five years ago, a much loved beguine cradle on loan from New York’s Metropolitan Museum was treated simply as a piece of furniture. But at the Met, the cradle, which once held a Christ child laid in it by the religious women in whose community it stood, points the viewer toward other works related to the holy family, all on display nearby but not usually considered together.  Interpreting these devotional objects in their social and devotional context, Professor Bynum will argue that medieval images—both literary and material—evoked, even compelled, a far more complex, nuanced, and even contradictory sense of the holy than much recent work on materiality suggests.

Co-Sponsored by the Boston University Center for the Humanities.

Free and Open to the Public with reception to follow


“Reading Between Word and Image” Lecture Series: “Medium and Message: Decoding the Mosaic Message in ‘Abd al-Malik’s Dome of the Rock” with Marcus Milwright

The Program in Scripture and the Arts is proud to present the first speaker in its 2015-2016 speaker series, Marcus Milwright, from the University of Victoria Department of Art History and Visual Studies. Professor Milwright is an authority on the art and architecture of the Islamic Middle East, cross-cultural interaction in the Medieval and early Modern Mediterranean, and craft practices in Late Ottoman Syria. In this lecture, he will examine the golden mosaic inscriptions on the seventh-century Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. These inscriptions contain professions of faith, verses drawn from the Qur’an, and other statements of a religious nature. Professor Milwright will consider this mosaic writing in the context of late antique craft practices and early Arabic epigraphy in order to suggest new ways of understanding the messages conveyed by the mosaic inscriptions and their role in the ideological program of the early Islamic state.

Co-Sponsored by the BU History of Art and Architecture Department, The BU Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations, and the Boston University Center for the Humanities

Free and Open to the Public


“The Language of Divinity: Modernity and the Deep Past” Lecture Series: “What Jews Talk About When They Don’t Talk About Judaism” with Daniel Boyarin

The Program in Scripture and the Arts is proud to present the third and final speaker in its 2014-2015 speaker series, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric, University of California Berkeley, Daniel Boyarin. Professor Boyarin is a historian of religion and Talmudic culture whose work on Jewish identity and Talmud hermeneutics has crucially informed the contemporary study of early Judaisms. In this lecture, he will argue that the term “Judaism” is irrelevant for ancient Jewry, demonstrating how such prominent Judaean (Jewish) writers as Josephus perceived the practices of the Judaeans in ways that did not set apart some putative “Judaism” or mark the Judaeans as structurally different from the other peoples of the Mediterranean.

Co-Sponsored by the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies and the Boston University Center for the Humanities

Free and Open to the Public

When: Thursday, April 30 2015 at 5:30 pm, lecture with reception to follow

Location: The Castle at Boston University (225 Bay State Rd, Boston, MA)

Transportation: Closest T stop is the B Line on the Green Line at BU Central; closest public parking lot is at 665 Commonwealth Ave, at the corner of Granby St. and Commonwealth.

“The Language of Divinity: Modernity and the Deep Past” Lecture Series: “The Voice of Prayer/ The Media of Prayer” with Niklaus Largier

The Program in Scripture and the Arts is proud to present the second speaker in its 2014-2015 speaker series, the Sidney and Margaret Ancker Chair in the Humanities and Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of California-Berkeley, Niklaus Largier. Professor Largier is currently working on a book on imagination, practices of figuration, aesthetic experience, and notions of possibility, tentatively entitled “Figures of Possibility.” His talk, entitled “The Voice of Prayer/The Media of Prayer,” will focus on the modern fascination with medieval mystical texts and discuss the ways in which so-called mystical experience takes shape aesthetically, sensually, and emotionally. At the center of his interest lies the medieval understanding of prayer as the medium through which mystical experience is produced, a medium that shapes sensation and affect and anticipates what nowadays is called aesthetic experience.

Co-Sponsored by the Boston University Center for the Humanities

Free and Open to the Public

When: Thursday, February 19 2015 at 6 pm lecture with reception to follow

Location: Boston University George Sherman Union (775 Commonwealth Ave), room 320-21. Reception to Follow in the GSU Terrace Lounge.

Transportation: Closest T stop is the B Line on the Green Line at BU Central; closest public parking lot is at 665 Commonwealth Ave, at the corner of Granby St. and Commonwealth.

About Niklaus Largier:

Niklaus Largier is Sidney and Margaret Ancker Chair in the Humanities and Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of California-Berkeley, where he is also affiliated with the Programs in Medieval Studies and Religious Studies.  His research deals with German literature and philosophy, especially questions of the relations among literature, philosophy, theology, and other fields of knowledge.  He is an expert on mystical traditions in German literature and thought, in particular Meister Eckhart and his influence from the Middle Ages to postmodern discourses. His most recent books explore the relation between bodily ascetic practices (in particular flagellation), eroticism, and the literary imagination (Lob der Peitsche: Eine Kulturgeschichte der Erregung. Beck, Munich, 2001 / In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal. ZONE Books, 2007) and the fascination of decadent literature with such religious practices (Die Kunst des Begehrens: Dekadenz, Sinnlichkeit und Askese. Beck, Munich, 2007). His other books include a study on time and temporality in late medieval philosophy and literature (1989), a bibliography of literature on Meister Eckhart (1989), a translation and commentary of a medieval treatise on spiritual poverty (1989), a two-volume edition of Meister Eckhart’s works with extensive commentaries in the Deutscher Klassiker Verlag (1993), and a study of the significance of exemplum and exemplarity in medieval literature, philosophy, and historiography (1997). Largier has published essays on Eckhart, Tauler, Seuse, Mechthild of Magdburg, Hadewijch, Rudolf of Biberach, Czepko, and others; and, more recently, a series of articles on the interaction of images and texts in medieval manuscripts, questions of visual culture, and the significance of exemplarity in various discursive contexts.

“The Language of Divinity: Modernity and the Deep Past” Lecture Series: “Sacramental Poetics” with Regina Schwartz

The Program in Scripture and the Arts is proud to announce its three-part lecture series for 2014-2015, The Language of Divinity: Modernity and the Deep Past. The first speaker in this series will be Pulitzer prize nominee Regina Schwartz, Professor of English at Northwestern University, who will deliver a lecture at BU entitled “Sacramental Poetics” on October 14. This lecture will explore how the impulses that inform ritual can govern poetry. How, for instance, can the spiritual cravings for communion with Divinity addressed by the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist be expressed in verse? Surely as sign-making characterizes the Eucharist, is also does poetry, which is similarly engaged in making present what is absent–not just in select figures of speech, like the apostrophe, but in the very poetic enterprise. What is the sacramental character of language and how does it inflect communication?

When: Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 6 pm lecture with reception to follow

Location:147 Bay State Road, Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, 2nd floor board room (Room 201)

From the Northwestern University English Department Faculty page:

“Regina Schwartz (Ph.D. University of Virginia) teaches seventeeth-century literature, especially Milton; Hebrew Bible; philosophy and literature, law and literature, and religion and literature. Her publications include Remembering and Repeating: Biblical Creation in Paradise Lost (1988), which won the James Holly Hanford prize for the best book on Milton; The Book and the Text: The Bible and Literary Theory (1990); Desire in the Renaissance: Psychoanalysis and Literature (1994); The Postmodern Bible (1995) and Transcendence: Philosophy, Literature, and Theology Approach the Beyond (2004). The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism (1997), a study of identity and violence in the Hebrew Bible, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Her most recent book, Sacramentality at the Dawn of Secularism: When God Left the World, is published by Stanford in their series “Cultural Memory in the Present” (2007).

She has served as President of the Milton Society of America, Chair of the Modern Language Association Religion and Literature Division and Chair of Northwestern’s Interdisciplinary Hiring Initiative in the Humanities. Her recent speaking engagements include featured speaker at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, and international conferences on “Ontology,” “The Place of Theology in the Liberal State and Global Setting,” and “Derrida and Religion.” Her recent essays on postmodern theology appear in Post-secular Philosophy, Questioning God, and Transcendence; on Milton and Renaissance literature in The Blackwell Companion to Milton and The Journal of Religion and Literature; and on Shakespeare and Law in Triquarterly.”


Amos Wilder Lecture and Friday Morning Talk with Joy Ladin, March 20 and 21

On Thursday, March 20 and Friday, March 21 The Program in Scripture and the Arts, in collaboration with the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences Academic Enhancement Fund and the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies will welcome Joy Ladin to BU for two exciting events. Joy will come from New York’s Stern College/Yeshivah University  to give the final Amos Wilder Lecture on Thursday, March 20, 2014. Joy is a literary scholar and also an acclaimed poet herself; she holds the David and Ruth Guttesman Chair in English at Stern College/YU.

Joy has also written about her experience as a Jewish transgender person and her decision to transition (and the impact of that decision personally and professionally) in a book entitled, Through the Door of Life; A Jewish Journey Between Genders. To learn more about Joy and her work, see here.


Amos Wilder lecture: “You are Making Me Now”: Writing God as a Contemporary American Poet

Rephrasing Robert Frost’s classic 1915 poem, “Mending Wall,” poet and scholar Joy Ladin has noted “Something there is in American poetry that doesn’t love religion, that sends skeptical ground swells under it, toppling the rhetoric of Divinity and Absolute Truth…” According to Allen Ginsberg, American poets’ “thirst for the Absolute” is in constant tension with the “aesthetics of relative truth” on which most American poetic practices are based. This talk will examine “the aesthetics of relative truth,” how they are reflected in American poetics, and how hard those poetics make it to represent one of the most fundamental human experiences: the experience of the presence of God.

When: Thursday, March 20, 2014, 4:30 PM

Location: Photonics 203, 8 St. Mary’s Street, Boston University, Boston MA

Free and Open to the Public


Friday Morning Talk: Gender, Judaism and God

This talk will take an autobiographical, phenomenological approach to examining the intersections (and collisions) between transgender identity and Jewish tradition, and the challenges and changes in the American Jewish world’s engagement with transgender Jews.

When: Friday, March 21, 2014, 10 am

Location: PHO 206, 8 St. Mary’s St, Boston University, Boston MA 02215

Free and Open to the Public

“Does the Artist Matter? Painting Gods for Korean Shamans” with Laurel Kendall

In Korean shaman practice, images of gods hung in the shaman’s shrine transmit divine inspiration to shamans and are the site of daily offerings and supplications.  Some paintings are produced by traditionalist painters who observe a variety of workshop taboos and as in some sense inspired by the gods they portray.   Other shrine paintings are produced by commercial artists and sold in generic shaman supply shops and some shamans use cheap commercial prints.  Do these distinctions matter?  Anthropologist Laurel Kendall of Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History presents a dialogue between shamans, painters, and shop proprietors on the subject of a proper and efficacious shaman painting.

Where: BU Photonics Colloquium Room, 9th floor of 8 St. Mary’s Street, Boston MA

When: November 13, 2013, 6 pm lecture, reception to follow

Free and Open to the public

Co-Sponsored by the BU Center for the Humanities, BU Department of Religion, BU MLCL and BU CSA

Alash Ensemble: Workshop, Performance and Q+A

On November 5, 2013, the Program in Scripture and the Arts will be hosting the Alash Ensemble, internationally acclaimed masters of Tuvan throat singing. Hailing from the Tuva Republic in Siberia Russia, the ensemble will hold a workshop in which students will learn traditional forms and techniques of Tuvan throat singing. In the evening, there will be a public performance showcasing this remarkable technique for singing multiple pitches at the same time. The performance will be followed by a Q+A session that will focus on possible intersections between Tuvan throat singing and Shamanism.

Location: GSU Conference Auditorium, 775 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston MA

Date/Time: November 5, 2013/ 1 pm workshop, 5:30 pm performance, Q+A and Reception to follow.

Free and Open to BU Community. For more information see:

For more information on participating in the 1 pm student workshop on Nov 5, please contact Theresa Cooney,

Co-sponsored by the BU Arts Initiative, Office of the Provost; the BU Center for the Humanities; the BU Core Curriculum and Distinguished Teaching Fellowship; the BU Department of Religion and the BU Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature.