Griffith named Mullin Scholar

| June 4, 2013

The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California has selected Sweet Briar assistant professor of English David Griffith as a Generations in Dialogue, or GID, scholar. He is one of six young academics chosen from among 121 applicants.

According to a press release, the GID program brings together accomplished senior mentors in academia and the arts with scholars, writers and artists who are establishing their careers. This year’s program focuses on the vocation of the writer, led by Gregory Wolfe, founding director of the M.F.A. program at Seattle Pacific University, and founding editor of Image journal.

Supported by Peter and Merle Mullin and the Angell Foundation, the program entails four weekends of dialogue over two years in retreat settings on the West Coast led by the senior mentor. Dialogues include thematic discussions, personal reflection on vocation, shared prayer and presentations from distinguished scholars or artists.

Each participant receives the title of Mullin Scholar at the IACS and a $4,000 award.

“The newest GID cohort meets a need for early-career writers by connecting their creative work with a sense of vocation rooted in the Catholic tradition,” Gary Adler, the institute’s research director, said in the press release. “This combination of intellectual rigor and spiritual reflection, with a senior mentor leading the way, is relatively rare in the academy and the world of creative writing.”

Adler said this year’s candidate pool was the largest since the program began in 2010.

“The scholars were chosen because of their proven experience in published writing, their desire to deepen their sense of vocation and the creative potential in their future writing,” he said.

One goal of GID is to inspire the next generation of scholars, artists and writers to work in creative scholarship or art that engages the intellectual and spiritual traditions of Catholicism. Another is to foster a lifelong vocation for public engagement that serves the common good. A third is to create an inter-generational community of scholars, artists and writers steeped in vocation and faith.

“GID seeks to create a multi-generational academic community in which participants advance the efforts of faith informing scholarship and art, and scholarship and art informing faith,” the release said.

For Griffith, the award comes at an opportune time.

“The fellowship will provide me with a group of smart and insightful readers for the book I am completing, ‘Pyramid Scheme: Making Art and Being Broke in America,’ ” he says, characterizing the work as a hybrid of memoir and critical essay.

“[It] explores the connections and tensions between poverty and creativity, and traces the changing role of the arts and the artist in American culture over the last twenty years.”

Griffith, who holds an M.F.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, began teaching creative writing at Sweet Briar in 2007. His first book, “A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America” (Soft Skull Press, 2006), is a meditation on media violence occasioned by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Jennifer McManamay

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Category: Creative Writing, English