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Paul Elie is a Senior Fellow with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Director of the American Pilgrimage Project, a university partnership with StoryCorps based in the Berkley Center. His work deals primarily with the ways religious ideas are given expression in literature, the arts, music, and culture in the broadest sense. He is the author of two books, The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage (2003) and Reinventing Bach (2012), and of essays and articles for The Atlantic, The New York Times, Commonweal, and other periodicals. In the American Pilgrimage Project he is examining the ways religious beliefs inform the experiences of the American people at crucial moments in their lives.
Elie is a graduate of Fordham University (B.A., summa cum laude, honors, 1987) and the Graduate Writing Program in the School of the Arts at Columbia University (M.F.A., 1991). Before joining Georgetown he worked for two decades in book publishing as a senior editor with Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York, aquiring and editing books about religion and other subjects. He taught nonfiction writing in Columbia's Graduate Writing Program from 2007 to 2011.
His two books dramatize the encounter of religious belief and modern forms of art and communication. The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage, a group portrait of four twentieth-century Catholic writers (Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day), was published by FSG in 2003 and received a number of awards, including two Modern Language Association book prizes. His second book, Reinventing Bach, about the transformation of Bach's music through recording technology in the hands of great musicians (Albert Schweitzer, Pablo Casals, Glenn Gould, Yo-Yo Ma, et al.), was published by FSG in September 2012. His essays and journalism have addressed controversial subjects involving religion and society. The Atlantic has published his articles about the Anglican church and sexuality, the resurgence of interest in Reinhold Neibuhr's religious realism, and the process of selecting a new pope; “The Year of Two Popes,” a cover story for The Atlantic in 2006, is the most comprehensive account of the Vatican's inner workings ever published in an American magazine. The New York Times Magazine has published his articles about conflicts between Catholic and Jewish leaders, the contested legacy of John Cardinal O'Connor, and the divisive prospect of Dorothy Day's canonization. In a 2004 lecture at Boston College he considered the priestly sexual abuse crisis from the perspective of bewildered younger Catholics; a subsequent essay was reprinted in the Best American Catholic Writing 2005. He is writing a third book, The Beginning of Wisdom, about the ways adulthood and parenthood thrust believers back to first principles, and advising Mario Marazziti, a founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Rome-based Catholic NGO, on Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Death Penalty, to be published by Seven Stories Press.
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Photo Credit to Sue Jaye Johnson