Thick and Dazzling Darkness: Religious Poetry in a Secular Age | March 1

OLeary Book Cover



March 1   4:30pm
Swift Hall, Room 106
1025 E 58th St, Chicago

Free and open to the public. Sponsored by our partner the Lumen Christi Institute; cosponsored by the Program in Poetry and Poetics and the Seminary Coop Bookstore. 

How do poets use language to render the transcendent, often dizzyingly inexpressible nature of the divine? In an age of secularism, does spirituality have a place in modern American poetry? In Thick and Dazzling Darkness, Peter O’Leary reads a diverse set of writers to argue for the existence and importance of religious poetry in twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature. He traces a poetic genealogy that begins with Whitman and Dickinson and continues in the work of contemporary writers to illuminate an often obscured but still central spiritual impulse that has shaped the production and imagination of American poetry.

O’Leary presents close and comprehensive readings of the modernist, late-modernist, and postmodern poets Robinson Jeffers, Frank Samperi, and Robert Duncan, as well as the contemporary poets Joseph Donahue, Geoffrey Hill, Fanny Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, Pam Rehm, and Lissa Wolsak. Examining how these poets drew on a variety of traditions, including Catholicism, Gnosticism, the Kabbalah, and mysticism, the book considers how modern and contemporary poets have articulated the spiritual in their work. O’Leary also argues that an anxiety of misunderstanding exists in the study and writing of poetry between secular and religious impulses and that the religious nature of poets’ works is too often marginalized or misunderstood. Examining the works of a specific poet in each chapter, O’Leary reveals their complexity and offers a defense of the value and meaning of religious poetry against the grain of a secular society.


Peter O’Leary is the author of several books of poetry, most recently The Sampo (Cultural Society), a book-length fantasy poem set in the far north, featuring a wizard, a sorceress, a sword, and a mysterious magical object of absorbing perfection, and a new book of criticism, Thick and Dazzling Darkness: Religious Poetry in a Secular Age (Columbia University Press). He holds a PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School and teaches at both the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.

Register for Stephen Brock, “St. Thomas Aquinas on Free Choice”


Our visiting scholarsStephen L. Brock (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross), will be leading this summer seminar “St. Thomas Aquinas on Free Choice” through the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago.

University of Chicago

This seminar will be a five-day, intensive discussion aimed at understanding and evaluating St. Thomas Aquinas’ account of liberum arbitrium and of the psychological and metaphysical principles that underlie it. The sessions will center on passages from the Summa Theologiae, but we will also refer to other works of Aquinas, such as the De Malo and the Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and to pertinent texts from other philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Anscombe.

sb20170512_3793Stephen L. Brock is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei.  He is Ordinary Professor of Medieval Philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Chicago and a PhD in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.  Brock writes widely on Thomas Aquinas and action theory, ethics, and metaphysics. He is the author of The Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. A Sketch (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and Action & Conduct: Thomas Aquinas and the Theory of Action(T&T Clark, 1998).  During 2017 he was a visiting scholar in the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago, collaborating in the project “Virtue, Happiness, and Meaning in Life.


Apply by February 15!


Now in their tenth year, these seminars are open to doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, and other relevant areas of study. Room, board, and a travel stipend will be included for accepted applicants. Each seminar includes a week of intensive discussion based on close reading of the assigned texts, as well as daily presentations given by the professor and student participants. A deep knowledge of the material is not required to apply.
For details about the seminars and the application requirements,

Register for Wojciech Giertych,”The Moral Theology of Aquinas: Is it for Individuals?” and afternoon seminar on infused virtues, Feb 8-9


We’re pleased to share these events presented by our partner, the Lumen Christi Institute. For further information, contact Michael Bradley, Communications and Events Coordinator,
On Thursday, February 8, the Theologian of the Pontifical Household, Wojciech Giertych,will deliver a lecture at the University of Chicago titled “The Moral Theology of Aquinas: Is It For Individuals?” The lecture is free and open to the public and will begin at 4:30pm. Registration is requested:

On Friday, February 9, Giertych will lead an afternoon seminar for graduate students and faculty on “Grace, Free Choice, and the Infused Virtues.” The seminar will be held atGavin House, home of the Lumen Christi Institute. Registration is required. Seminar readings are available beforehand to participants. Please register here:

Fr. Wojciech Giertych, OP, is Professor of Moral Theology at the Angelicum in Rome, where he has taught since 1994. In 1975, he entered the Polish Province of the Dominican Order. He studied theology in Kraków and was ordained a priest in 1981. For a number of years Fr. Giertych was a professor of moral theology and the Student Master, a formator, in the Dominican House of Studies in Kraków. In 1998, Fr. Giertych was called to the General Council of the Dominican Order, serving first as the Socius for Central and Eastern Europe, and then as the Socius for the Intellectual Life. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Fr. Giertych the Theologian of the Papal Household – a position he currently holds under Pope Francis.

Videos from Lumen Christi programs


Our partner Lumen Christi‘s November program videos are now available through the links below. We hope you enjoy them!

Paul Mariani (Boston College) | November 2 | “A Final Seriousness: Wallace Stevens’ Late Poems Revisited” | Video and Details HERE.
David O’Connor (Notre Dame) | November 16 | “Plato’s Bedroom: Desire, Union, and Procreation” | Video and Details HERE.


Richard Garnett (Notre Dame) and Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern) | November 20 | “Trinity Lutheran and the Future of Public Funding for Religious Entities” | Video and Details HERE.

Lumen Christi Institute Events – Winter 2017

Founded in 1997 by Catholic Scholars at the University of Chicago, The Lumen Christi Institute brings together thoughtful Catholics and others interested in the Catholic tradition and makes available to them the wisdom of the Catholic spiritual, intellectual, and cultural heritage. Lumen Christi is a partner with our project and we’re pleased to share their  upcoming events for Spring 2017.

Thursday, February 16, 4:30pm-6:00pm

with Sarah Byers (Boston College)
“What does it Mean to Say the Son of God is ‘Consubstantial’ with the Father? New Insights into Augustine’s Debt to Aristotle” 

Harper Memorial Library 130: 1116 East 59th Street
Cosponsored by the Department of Philosophy 
Register here.

Friday, February 17, 2:00pm-5:00pm
with Sarah Byers (Boston College)

Master Class: Augustine on Human Freedom and Divine Grace: What is Really Going on in the ‘Conversion Scene’ in Augustine’s Confessions?”

Gavin House: 1220 E 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
Open to graduate and undergraduate students, including non-University of Chicago students. Space is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Copies of the readings will be made available online to all participants. 
Register here.
Thursday, February 23, 4:30-6:00pm
Lecture by Celia Deane-Drummond (Notre Dame) 
Social Sciences, Room 122: 1126 E 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
Register here.

Video: Aquinas’s Third Way of Proving a God: Logic or Love? | Fr. Stephen L. Brock at Lumen Christi

Fr. Stephen L. Brock is our Spring 2017 Visiting Scholar and on the faculty of our June 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-transcendence.” In doing a little internet surfing about him, we came across a lecture he gave on February 5, 2015 at the University of Chicago, sponsored by our institutional partner Lumen Christi. Bringing the small world concept closer, he’s introduced by our very own principal investigator Candace Vogler.

Fr. Stephen L. Brock is Professor of Medieval Philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. He is a member of the Pontifical Academy of St Thomas Aquinas and is the author of Action & Conduct: Thomas Aquinas and the Theory of Action. He has written numerous articles on various aspects of the thought of Thomas Aquinas, and he has edited several collections including Thomas Aquinas and the Subject of Metaphysics. Fr. Brock leads week long seminars for graduate students in Rome on the thought of Thomas Aquinas.