STILL LOST IN THE COSMOS panelist biographies

Elizabeth Amato is a professor at James Madison College at Michigan State University. She received her doctorate in political science from Baylor University. Her dissertation took a politics and literature approach to considering the pursuit of happiness.

Rebecca Baker is a Ph.D. student in English at the CUNY Graduate Center. She holds an M.A. in English from Wake Forest University, where her master’s thesis explored Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer through the lens of trauma theory. In addition to being Lost in the Cosmos, Rebecca currently spends a great deal of her time lost in New York City.

Thom Bassett, J.D., M.F.A., teaches philosophy, literature, and writing at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He is a regular contributor to “Disunion,” the New York Times’ Civil War online series and has also published reviews, articles, and fiction about the Civil War elsewhere. In addition, he is at work on a novel that draws from his enduring fascination with Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

David Beck teaches for the English Department at Indiana University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). He did his graduate work on the philosophical influences on Walker Percy. He has published several short stories, articles, and two non-fiction books. He has won three awards from The Society of Professional Journalists for his creative non-fiction. He lives with Susie, his wife of thirty-one years, and their son Michael and daughter Christina.

Robbie Bolton is the Library Director at the White Library at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI. He received an M.S. in Information from the University of Michigan.

Christopher Carstens holds an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Dallas and a M.A. (Liturgical Studies) from The Liturgical Institute. He is currently the Director of the Office of Sacred Worship for the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and an adjunct faculty member at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois. Christopher is coauthor of Mystical Body, Mystical Voice, an exposition of the English-language texts of the third edition of The Roman Missal.

Brent Cline is an Associate Professor of English at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI where he teaches modern American literature. He earned his Ph.D. in English from Western Michigan University.

Charles Cowherd currently teaches high school history and government at Metairie Park Country Day School. He received his B.A. in History from the Virginia Military Institute and his Masters in International Relations from Boston University.

Rachel Early is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of French and Italian at Vanderbilt University, and is now teaching at the University of Houston. She received her B.A. from Baylor University in 2007, and her M.A. from Vanderbilt in 2010. Her dissertation deals with modes of personal presence in the twelfth century romances of Chrétien de Troyes.

Peter Eliopoulos is a published writer and poet. He performs his poetry in the Lowell area, as well as Boston and NYC. His writing has been featured on Jay Leno's Tonight Show. He has also appeared on Nancy Grace's television show Swift Justice. He has previously taught at Middlesex Community College and currently teaches literature and composition at North Shore Community College. He has presented academic papers at Hofstra University, Salem State College, Manhattan Community College and the Community Colleges Humanities Association. He is co-founder and director of the Jack Kerouac 5K Scholarship. He lives in Lowell, MA with daughters Julia and Mia.

Dr. Larry E. Fink is in his twenty-sixth year of teaching English at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Research interests include Milton, George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, Walker Percy, and others. He is past president of the Southwest Conference on Christianity & Literature and current president of the C.S. Lewis & Inklings Society. A dedicated photographer, he has published two books of documentary photography, including the biography, George MacDonald: Images of His World, with Rolland Hein of Wheaton College. He also practices and teaches street photography. About a dozen of his Paris street photographs will appear in the 2013 issue of The Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas. He and his wife Cathy have three children and two grandchildren.

Kevin Joseph Haley is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Director of Admissions at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, CA. He recently finished his Ph.D. in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, focusing on the Old Testament and Early Judaism. His research and teaching interests extend to canonical readings of the Old Testament, the relationship between the two Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish-Christian dialogue, ecumenical dialogue, and the interaction of theology with film and literature. He has become adept at bringing Walker Percy and his work into the most casual of daily conversations.

Thomas H. Hubert is an independent scholar from Saint Louis. Born 60 miles from Lost Cove, Tennessee, he earned a doctorate in English from the University of Georgia (1975), with a dissertation on Allen Tate. He has written on the Fugitive-Agrarians, E.A. Poe, Henry James, et al. Occasionally, he writes what passes for poetry. He also studied theology at Saint Louis University. In the 1970’s he corresponded with Percy about the Catholic Church and conversion.

Brian Jobe teaches Humanities at City University of Seattle and is the author of the novel Bird's Nest in Your Hair, published by Korrektiv Press. He studied Classics at the University of Washington and the University of California at Santa Barbara. His writing has been published at National Review Online, Korrektiv, Letter X Magazine, and Dappled Things. He presented a paper on the influence of Heidegger's Being and Time on The Moviegoer at the 2011 Percy Conference. He lives in Seattle.

Jennifer Levasseur, a Louisiana native and graduate of Loyola University New Orleans, holds a master’s degree from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She co-edited Novel Voices (Writer’s Digest Books), and her work has appeared in such publications as Tin House, Glimmer Train Stories, Brick, The Missouri Review, The Kenyon Review and Mississippi Review. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Matthew Lickona is a staff writer and critic for The San Diego Reader, a weekly newspaper. He is also a member of The Korrektiv, a blog and publishing venture devoted to, among other things, Walker Percy and existentialist tomfoolery. He is the author of the memoir Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic, and more recently, the historical fiction Surfing with Mel. He lives with his family in La Mesa, California.

As a professor of communication at Trinity Christian College (Chicago), Craig Mattson grounds his teaching and scholarship in the work of Michael Polanyi and, more broadly, in the rhetorical tradition, focusing on discourse's role in such practices as philanthropy, consumption, attention and reading. Besides his Ph.D. in Communication, he has completed masters‑level work in interpretive performance. As Director of the Honors Program at Trinity, he now teaches a range of courses, including, in the spring of 2013, an honors seminar on the work of Walker Percy.

Gerald McCollam is a software engineer, artist and musician. A graduate of New York University, he studied cognitive and linguistic sciences at NYU's Center for Neural Science. Gerald's interest in the life and thought of Charles Sanders Peirce was first kindled by the novels and nonfiction work of Walker Percy.

Hillary McDonald is a second year graduate student at Wake Forest University. She is currently writing her thesis on the depiction of illness in the works of Walker Percy, and when she completes her master’s degree, she intends to go on to medical school. She also enjoys writing fiction, and has completed several novels and short stories.

Rhonda McDonnell is an English Professor at Scottsdale Community College, a member of the Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism at Texas Tech University, a Percy scholar, and a sometimes perplexed student of Peirce’s Semeiotic. As a fan of good rotations, she travels to at least one new place each year.

A native of South Carolina, H. Collin Messer is Associate Professor of English at Grove City College, where he teaches American literature and humanities. Messer holds degrees from Emory University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published articles on William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Raymond Carver, and Walker Percy. Messer is currently working on a book-length study of Percy, in which he traces Augustinian echoes and influences in Percy’s work with particular interest in the existentialism of both. He lives in Grove City, PA with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children.

Michael Murphy is Director of Catholic Studies, an interdisciplinary program at Loyola University Chicago, and teaches courses in both Theology and English. Mike's interest in the scholarly possibilities for interdisciplinarity began when he was an undergraduate at the University of San Francisco and continued to undergird his subsequent studies as well. His work explores the idea that the Catholic intellectual tradition is not only an essential resource for content, but is also one with a deeply ingrained interdisciplinary method as well. His first book, A Theology of Criticism: Balthasar, Postmodernism, and the Catholic Imagination (Oxford, 2008) is a representative project in constructive theology which proposes a reinvigorated framework for reading the dynamic interplay among literary content, theological interpretation, and critical theory /practices. He also writes on other aspects of theological aesthetics - how theology and spirituality are embedded in literature, poetry and film - and has research interests in hermeneutics, kenotic theory, and the political cultures of Catholicism. He lives in the Chicago area with his wife, two daughters and faithful black lab.

L. Lamar Nisly is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of English at Bluffton University (Ohio). He is the author of Impossible to Say: Representing Religious Mystery in Fiction by Malamud, Percy, Ozick, and O’Connor (Greenwood, 2002) and Wingless Chickens, Bayou Catholics, and Pilgrim Wayfarers: Constructions of Audience and Tone in O’Connor, Gautreaux, and Percy (Mercer, 2011) as well as editor of Conversations with Tim Gautreaux (Mississippi, 2012).

Joseph O’Brien is an award-winning journalist and staff writer for The Catholic Times, newspaper of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, editor at Tuscany Press, and a writer for The Korrektiv, a blog that revolves around a Walker-Percy (x)/Soren Kierkegaard (y) axis as a way of staying fixed in our drift through the cosmos. A published poet, he is also the editor of the recent Selected Short Stories-2012 Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction (Tuscany Press). Receiving a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Dallas, he lives with his wife and nine children on a rural homestead in the Driftless area of the Upper Midwest near Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin.

Farrell O'Gorman is Professor of English at Belmont Abbey College and former Associate Professor of Catholic Studies at DePaul University. He is the author of a critical study, Peculiar Crossroads: Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and Catholic Vision in Postwar Southern Fiction (LSU Press, 2004) and a novel, Awaiting Orders (Idylls Press, 2006). His short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Image, Shenandoah, Best Catholic Writing 2007, and elsewhere, and he has published scholarly articles on a variety of American authors. He is co-organizing a conference on Flannery O’Connor to be held at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland in July 2014.

Karey Lea Perkins has taught English and philosophy for 25 years and now serves as an English and philosophy professor at Westwood College in Atlanta, Georgia, and as a writer and editor for the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. Her Ph.D. in English is from GSU, MA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and BA in English and Religion from Wake Forest University. Her dissertation is on Walker Percy’s use of Charles Sanders Peirce’s semeiotic; she discovers Percy’s shift from primarily existentialist to primarily semiotician in the second half of his writing career. Currently she is working on a second degree in philosophy, focusing on Peirce’s synechistic world view, also prevalent in Percy’s writing.

Eric Potter is a professor of English at Grove City College (PA) where he teaches courses in the humanities, American literature, modern poetry, and creative writing. In addition to scholarly articles and conference presentations, he has published two poetry chapbooks. He lives in western Pennsylvania with his wife and three children.

Jonathan Potter is a librarian at Eastern Washington University, author of the poetry collection House of Words, and a founding member of Korrektiv Press -- a loose affiliation of Percy-inspired bad Catholics. Potter's essay, "The E-Book and the Surveillance Society" is due to appear in Second Nature Journal in November, and his poetry has appeared in Dappled Things, RiverLit, Windhover, Christianity & Literature, and on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac radio show. Potter lives in Spokane, Washington with his wife, two daughters, one dog, and a guinea pig named Norbert. Attendees of the 2011 Walker Percy Center conference may recall the multimedia examination of movies in The Moviegoer presented by Potter and co-author Read Schuchardt.

Lawrence Rhu teaches English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina, where he holds the Todd Chair in the Italian Renaissance. He has written two books, The Genesis of Tasso’s Narrative Theory and Stanley Cavell’s American Dream, and published an edition of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, as well as numerous articles, mainly on the literature of the Italian and English Renaissance. He is currently working on a book about the friendship of Walker Percy and Robert Coles.

Fr. Rowntree began his full-time teaching career at Loyola in 1976. In 1993 he answered a call for volunteers to begin a four-year integrated program of philosophy, humanities, and religious studies for English-speaking African Jesuit seminarians, Arrupe College, Harare, Zimbabwe. There he taught a variety of courses in ethics, political, and social philosophy. He returned to Loyola in 2001. Fr. Rowntree was granted emeritus status in the spring of 2013, and has begun parish ministry at Most Holy Name of Jesus Church, New Orleans LA

Robert M. Schaefer is a Professor of Political Science at the University of West Georgia. He teaches classes on American government and political theory. He is co-editor of American Political Rhetoric, 6th ed. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) and former technical advisor to Governor Bob Riley’s Alabama Citizens’ Constitution Commission.

John E. Shaffett is the Director of Library Services at The Baptist College of Florida in the Florida PanHandle. He is also a part-time History Instructor at the school. He has worked at the school for ten years. He is married to Amy and has four children, Hannah, Nathan, Noah, and Elizabeth. Three of these children are triplets.

Brian A. Smith teaches political philosophy and international relations at Montclair State University in New Jersey. He earned his Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University and is co-editor of A Political Companion to Walker Percy (Kentucky, 2013).

Matthew P. Smith is a second-year English Literature Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee. He received his M.A. from the University of Tennessee in 2012 and his B.A. from LSU in 2010. His research primarily focuses on regional and local color texts written between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War I.

Terence Sweeney is a graduate student in philosophy and a writing instructor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He has a Masters in Catholic Studies from the University of St Thomas in St Paul MN and B.A. in History from Providence College. He has recently published an article in Logos: a Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture on Gabriel Marcel’s philosophy of vocation.

Sylvester Tan, SJ is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Languages and Cultures at Loyola University New Orleans, where he works in the University Honors Program. Mr. Tan holds degrees in Medieval Studies (University of Toronto), Philosophy (Pontifical Gregorian University), and English/Environmental Studies (The University of the South, Sewanee). He has also studied Christian Letters at the Casa Balthasar and "The Changing Face of Catholicism" as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow.

Mitchell Thomas - bio forthcoming

Mark Thorsby is a Professor of Philosophy and current chair of the Philosophy & Humanities Department at Lone Star College-CyFair in Houston, Texas. He is currently completing his Ph.D. dissertation on the topic of phenomenology and ethics at the New School for Social Research. His areas of interest include the philosophy of language, existentialism, and environmental ethics.

(Robert) Cameron Wilson teaches English at William Jessup University in Rocklin, California. Cameron received a M.A. in Literary Studies from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and he is currently at work on a Ph.D. from Trinity College, Dublin. His areas of interest include Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, George Saunders, and postsecularism.

Christopher Yates is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Grove City College. He completed his graduate studies at Boston College in 2011, and specializes in recent Continental Philosophy and Aesthetics. His book, The Poetic Imagination in Heidegger and Schelling will be available from Bloomsbury in October, 2013.