Author James Carroll to teach in spring 2009

Undergraduate course to explore the relationship between religion and violence

WALTHAM, Mass. – Renowned author James Carroll will teach an undergraduate course at Brandeis during the spring 2009 semester, according to university officials.

Titled “Sacred Violence: An Investigation in History and Theology,” the course will explore the relationship between religion and violence, with special focus on Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. European culture and its American offshoot is the focus, but religious aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, centered in Jerusalem, will be examined, Carroll said.

He said the course, beginning in mid-January, will look at how violence relates to religious assumptions not just of “fundamentalists” but also of believers in general, and how so-called “secular” attitudes toward war are influenced by those assumptions.

Carroll, who received an honorary degree from Brandeis in May 2008 and is on the advisory board of the school’s International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, will teach in the Politics Department as the Fred and Rita Richman Distinguished Visiting Professor.

"This is another terrific learning opportunity for our students,” said Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz. “James Carroll brings to the classroom a rich body of work and the wisdom of an extraordinary life experience.”

Established in 1998 through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Fred Richman of New York and Florida, the Richman professorship was created to bring accomplished practitioners of politics and economics to the Brandeis campus.

Carroll, a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University, is a novelist and journalist whose writings on politics, religion, and culture have challenged and inspired readers in America and elsewhere. He has published 10 novels, including New York Times bestsellers “Mortal Friends,” “Family Trade,” and “Prince of Peace.” The Times named “City Below” and “Secret Father” Notable Books of the Year. Major nonfiction works include a memoir, “An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us.” Other works are: “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History;” “Toward A New Catholic Church: The Promise of Reform;” and “House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power.” He has written for the New Yorker and Daedalus, and has a column in The Boston Globe.

Born in Chicago in 1943 and raised in Washington, D.C., where his father, an Air Force general, served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Carroll attended Georgetown University before entering St. Paul’s College, the Paulist Fathers’s seminary, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 1965 he studied poetry with Allen Tate at the University of Minnesota, and was a Civil Rights worker and community organizer in Washington, D.C., and New York. In 1969 he was ordained into the priesthood, and served as Catholic chaplain at Boston College from 1969 to 1974.  During those years he published numerous books on religious subjects and a weekly column in the National Catholic Reporter, which earned him awards from the Catholic Press Association and other organizations. He studied poetry with George Starbuck, and eventually published a book of poems. He remained active in the anti-war movement until the Vietnam War ended.

Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer. In 1974, he was playwright-in-residence at the Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge, Mass. His first novel, “Madonna Red,” was published in 1976 and translated into seven languages.

Carroll is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and serves on its Committee for International Security Studies. He is member and former chairman of the council of PEN/New England. He has been a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at the Harvard Divinity School, where he serves on the Dean’s Council. Carroll is also a trustee of the Boston Public Library. He lives in Boston with his wife, the novelist Alexandra Marshall, and has two grown children.

Others who have held the Richman teaching post at Brandeis include the late Ann Richards, former Texas governor; former New York Mayor Edward Koch; Dennis Ross, the former U.S. ambassador who worked on Middle East policy under two Presidents; Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe columnist David Shribman; Ann Lewis, the former director of communications and counselor to President Bill Clinton; and Brandeis alum and trustee Thomas L. Friedman, a popular author and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner for the New York Times.

The Richmans have had many connections to Brandeis; they are the parents of Carol Saivetz (Brandeis Class of ’69), the parents-in-law of the late Richard Saivetz (also ’69), and the grandparents of Michael Saivetz ’97 and Aliza Saivetz ‘01.

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