Amanda Skofstad | September 24, 2018
In his introductory remarks for the first speaker of the 2018-19 Notre Dame Forum, University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., referenced a 2015 New York Review of Books article in which then-President Barack Obama interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson and they discussed the human tendency to reduce people different from oneself to a “sinister other.”
Father Jenkins suggested an antidote: “Marilynne Robinson’s novels help us to see the complexity of human beings, making it more difficult for us to believe in simplistic thoughts about this ‘sinister other.’ They help us to see the dignity of each human being — their being made in the image and likeness of God. Few things are more important for building the kind of community we want to build, both at this University and in this nation.”
This year’s Notre Dame Forum is themed “The Catholic Artistic Heritage: Bringing Forth Treasures New and Old,” inspired by the New Testament parable that compares the Kingdom of Heaven to the owner of a household who shares treasures both ancient and current.
In front of an audience of more than 400 in the Dahnke Ballroom, Robinson engaged in conversation with Susannah Monta, John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C., and Glynn Family Honors Associate Professor of English.
Monta noted that “Gilead,” Robinson’s most famous novel, is deeply concerned with the idea of vocation — or sense of calling — and asked Robinson how she thinks about her calling as a writer. Robinson said she feels very fortunate for being able to do what she is inclined to do, and for being raised in a context that valued writing, thinking and solitude.
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