The Columbia University Seminar on Religion and Writing

We hold our regular meetings as hybrid events, so that the seminar itself is accessible to ZOOM participants.  For the academic year 2022–2023 the in-person meeting will take place in the Faculty House on Columbia’s Morningside campus (64 Morningside Drive, New York, NY 10027; for directions, please click here; for accommodation of access, please see below).  Columbia University’s COVID protocols apply to the in-person meetings: visitors are required to be vaccinated

For this year we do not have a fixed meeting day.  We will begin at 5 pm sharp with the seminar, followed by a buffet dinner at 6.30 pm; the meal costs 30 USD per person.  The meetings are open, but a RSVP is required.  If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.


September 29, 2022 – Lucy K. Pick (University of Chicago): Literacy, Orality, and Translation: Samuel ibn Tibbon, Michael Scot, and Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed

October 27, 2022 – Ameneh Youssefzadeh (Independent Scholar): Devotional Songs and Narratives in Iranian Khorasan

November 15, 2022 – Isabelle Levy (Columbia University): Jewish Literary Eros: Between Poetry and Prose in the Medieval Mediterranean

Monday, January 30, 2023 – Alison Vacca (Columbia University): “The Nonsense of your Farfetched Stories”: Textual Transmission between Armenian and Arabic in the Eighth Century

In the eighth century, Armenia was part of the early Islamic Caliphate. Ruled first by the Umayyads and then by the ʿAbbasids, the province sat on the edge of empires and faced both the Eastern Roman Empire and the Khazar Khaganate. Its position at the interstices offered Armenia a unique vantage point—far from a backwater province, it was on the front lines of world events. Over the past decades, many eminent Armenologists have worked to demonstrate how interconnected Armenian culture was with the broader storylines of the Near East. However, as a region with its own religious and historiographical traditions, Armenian history is still all too frequently set aside as “other” or “different.”

At the heart of this talk is a book of history written in the eighth century by an Armenian priest named Łewond. His history offers an instructive view of the extensive and complicated ties between Armenian, Arabic, and Greek sources of the early Islamic period as historical reports circulated between communities both textually and orally. The close study of Łewond’s text allows us to trace particular details and ideas as they crossed religious, political, and linguistic borders of the Near East. However, above and beyond the borrowing of reports or phrases across languages, the history also raises the broader question of shared concepts about genre. 

Monday, February 27, 2023 – Br. John Glasenapp, OSB (St. Anselm College): Rewriting Music, Rethinking Identity: Observant Reform, Liturgy, and Oral Learning among Nuns in the Southern Low Countries

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 – Kenneth Baxter Wolf (Pomona College): TBA

Columbia University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.  University Seminar participants with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations may contact the Office of Disability Services at 212.854.2388 or [email protected].  Disability accommodations, including sign-language interpreters, are available on request.  Requests for accommodations must be made two weeks in advance. 

The official page of the Columbia University Seminar 751 is available at:  For more information about the seminar’s history, please see:  The abstracts of all talks since January 2012 are archived at:

Susan L. Boynton, co-chair
Columbia University, Department of Music
slb184 [at]

Dagmar A. Riedel, co-chair
Columbia University
dar2111 [at]

Anya B. Wilkening, rapporteur
Columbia University, Department of Music
abw2163 [at]

First published, 1 February 2012
Last updated, 10 January 2023