Julia Spicher Kasdorf, P.H.D., will be on EMU’s campus Thursday for the annual Justice Lectures hosted by the Bible and Religion Department in the Martin Chapel. Besides the Bible and Religion Department, the Language and Literature Department and the Center for Interfaith Engagement are also sponsoring the lectures.
Kasdorf, Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University, will give lectures at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. The afternoon lecture is entitled “Water: Mother of Many Names” and will be followed by a response from Kirsten Beachy. The evening lecture is entitled “Mightier than the Sword: Martyr’s Mirror in the New World,” and will be followed by a response from Mary Sprunger.
Kasdorf is the author of three collections of poetry as well as a collection of essays entitled “The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life.” Kasdorf says the lectures will be along the same lines as the essays in this book.
“As essays, they are ‘attempts’ or ‘tries’ instead of arguments or lectures,” Kasdorf said. “They are driven by curiosity about things that interest and trouble me.”
The afternoon talk, which will be about water, is a newer creation of Kasdorf’s.
“It still feels like an experiment, a kind of travel piece about sites of Anabaptist memory in Switzerland,” Kasdorf said. Kasdorf has plans for this water essay to be “one of four pieces in a quartet named for the ancient elements.”
Kasdorf’s evening tak on the Martyrs Mirror is one she’s been tweaking since 2006.
Though Kasdorf does not teach religious studies, the honesty and openness about the Anabaptist tradition that she brings to her work makes her a sought-after speaker among Mennonite and other Christian institutions. Kasdorf spoke at Conrad Grebel College last winter and at Messiah College a few weeks ago.
EMU’s Bible and Religion Department sought Kasdorf because of her value as an Anabaptist and academic. Peter Dula, Chair of the Bible and Religion Department says Kasdorf is the “most interesting” Anabaptist academic doing work today.
Most of Kasdorf’s work is in poetry, and she says much of her work comes from “thinking about sacrifice and memory and identity.” Because of this, she welcomes the opportunity to speak to those who share her Mennonite background.
“I am working as a writer, a poet, using imagination and metaphor and analogy and associative leaps as a way to approach fairly traditional material,” said Kasdorf. “Out of my attempt to try to think about tradition in new ways – which feels like a matter of personal consequence, first of all – sometimes I am able to invite others to think differently, too.”
-Ryan Eshleman, News Editor