The Talks | The FacultyRegistrationBlast from the past 
| LifeLong Learning



We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. 

Walt Disney (1901-1966)


When do the Seminars take place?

  • SESSION I: June 23 – 29, 2019
  • SESSION II: July 7 – 13, 2019

The Program

The Seminar will be housed in the beautiful Tennessee Williams Center at 406 Kentucky Avenue, the home of Sewanee’s excellent theatre program. 

Each lecture described below is given on a single morning. After a break for refreshments, participants may join a further discussion of the main lecture, or choose to attend a different presentation given by another faculty member.

Who comes to the Seminars?

We always have a lively group composed of alumni, friends of Sewanee, and those who are simply curious about this beautiful place. The only prerequisite is that you enjoy the flow of ideas and the company of interesting people. Some participants are quickly swept into active dialogue; others come to absorb and reflect.

Who teaches the Seminars?

We will be celebrating our 44th anniversary this summer with a group of outstanding speakers: Professors Andrea Hatcher, Politics; John McCardell, Vice Chancellor and History; Jeffrey Thompson, Art, Art History, and Visual Studies; Jim Turrell, School of Theology; and Dan Backlund, Theatre and Dance. Click here to see this year's faculty.

The Week 

  • Sunday, afternoon:
    • Arrive at the Tennessee Williams Center for check-in 1:30–3:30 p.m. Central Time
    • Opening reception at 4 p.m. 
  • Monday–Friday mornings, 9 a.m.–noon: Seminars
  • Monday–Friday afternoon and evenings: Optional programs and activities
  • Friday late afternoon: Final reception and farewell dinner
  • Saturday morning: Departure by 10 a.m.

The Daily Schedule

Mornings begin with a hearty breakfast at McClurg, followed by the main lecture of the day at 9 a.m. After a break for refreshments it is time for a choice: to discuss the main lecture topic or to join a new talk with a different professor. Thus, each morning includes opportunities to pursue two different subjects. Everyone hears the main lecture, then some pursue that subject for the rest of the morning while others jump into one of the “second talks.”

Afternoons and evenings are for more informal activities. We provide plenty of opportunities for hikes, visits to interesting local spots, film viewings, and other activities. Many participants mix these with their own forays into the library, into the sun, or into the luxury of unscheduled time. Use of duPont Library and the Fowler Sport and Fitness Center are included in the program.

Housing and Meals

Session I participants will live in Phillips Hall while Session II participants will be housed in Benedict Hall. Meals, with the exception of our farewell dinner, will be at McClurg Dining Hall. The campus coffee house, named after Ted Stirling, the founder of the Sewanee Summer Seminar, is on the east side of the Bishop’s Common.

How much does it cost?

$675 for each adult participant (tuition, double room, and meals)

$725 for each adult participant (tuition, single room, and meals)

$375 for tuition only, per person (no housing or meals)

$75 early arrival fee per day, per person

For tuition-only participants, meals are also available on an individual basis.

Remember: The Summer Conference Office charges early arrivals (Saturday after 2 p.m.) $75.00 per person, per night

How do I make a reservation?

Register online    

A deposit of $50 reserves your place or send deposits and direct questions to:

Professor Dan Backlund
Director, Sewanee Summer Seminar
The University of the South
735 University Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37383-1000
Email     931.598.0976    


Sewanee Seminar Talks



Professor Andrea Hatcher, Politics

It Just Wouldn’t Be British!” Or, Why There’s Not a Christian Right in Britain

Not all Evangelicals are alike. American Evangelicals are politically engaged through partisan and electoral systems, but British Evangelicals act via civic and social organizations. American Evangelicals are generally affiliated with the ideological Right and the Republican Party, whereas British Evangelicals have no discernable ideological or partisan affiliation. I talked to academics, journalists, MPs, activists, laity, and clergy (including the Bishop of London and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York) to understand these differences, and then I held focus groups in 10 Evangelical churches across Britain to talk to congregants themselves. Simply put, political opinions are not endemic to religious traditions—a finding that reveals as much about the formation of the American Christian Right as it does to explain its absence across the pond. 

Professor and Vice-Chancellor John McCardell, History

Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and the Meaning of the Civil War

With secession and the outbreak of civil war in 1861, nothing less than the meaning, and the future, of the American experiment was at stake. Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis each had reasoned and compelling – if also fundamentally different – views of what that experiment was all about and what the war to define it more precisely and defend it more aggressively meant. This talk will explore these competing claims, with a close look at Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Davis’s history of the Confederacy.


 Professor Jeffery Thompson, Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Director of Humanities

Forgery, Fakes, and Bootlegs: The Art of Imitation

As long as there has been an art market, there has been art forgery. Even at the start of Michelangelo’s career in the late 15th century, we see traces of the practice. Since then, we have numerous examples of the use of fakery to launch, enhance, or maintain an art career. Likewise, collectors, museums, and art experts have fueled the fire of forgery and helped establish an economy of fakes for several centuries. This talk will examine several examples of artistic “imitation” from Michelangelo himself to high profile art forgers of the 20th century such as Elmyr de Hory and Han van Meegeren, to more recent examples like Wolfgang Beltracchi. As long as there is somebody willing to buy it, there is somebody willing to fake it.


Professor Jim Turrell, Associate Dean School of Theology

How Do You Make a Christian?

When Thomas Cranmer constructed the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, he established a two-stage process of initiation into the church. For centuries, this pattern was unquestioned. Then, in 1979, his process was upended and a new pattern was established. Yet things are not always as they seem. We will look at the ritual patterns that Cranmer established, the new paradigm of the current prayer book, and some ways in which neither Cranmer’s process nor our present pattern are exactly what they appear to be. 


Professor Dan Backlund, Theatre and Dance, Director of Lifelong Learning

Why Did I Buy This? The Designer Made Me Do It!

In his book “The Design of Everyday Things” Donald A. Norman reflects, “Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.” Designers now study the psychological principles of human behavior, aspirations, and motivations to gain better insight into how people think and react. I thought it would be fun to look at retail design here in the US, see how it works, and to think about how design can sometimes manipulate us into specific purchases or into buying more than we intended when we walk into a retail store.

Sewanee Seminar Faculty



Andrea Hatcher, Politics

Andrea teaches about American political institutions - Congress, the presidency, and the courts, including a series of Constitutional Law courses (Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, and Balancing Powers). Her senior seminar, Religion and American Politics, was instrumental in shaping her ongoing research agenda about British Evangelicals. She has published The Political and Religious Identities of British Evangelicals (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and is currently researching the politics of black majority churches in the U.K.

Professor John McCardell, Vice Chancellor and History

Former “Vermonter of the Year” John M. McCardell Jr., became the 16th Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of the South in July 2010. He is president emeritus of Middlebury College and is a distinguished historian and respected national leader in liberal arts education. A 1971 graduate of Washington and Lee University, he did his graduate work at The Johns Hopkins University and then at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in history. In 1977, he received the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians for the best written dissertation on an American subject. His dissertation was later published under the title of The Idea of a Southern Nation, a book that, after 25 years, continues to be one of the most cogent discussions of the rise of Southern nationalists and Southern nationalism in the mid-19th century. McCardell brings to the Vice-Chancellor’s office an understanding and commitment to the role of the teacher and scholar in academic life, and he continues to teach despite the demands of the presidency. His Episcopal faith, his love for the liberal arts, and his background in Southern U.S. History have made Dr. McCardell a perfect fit for Sewanee.

Professor Jeffery Thompson, Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Director of Humanities


Professor Jim Turrell, Associate Dean School of Theology

Jim Turrell is professor of liturgy, the Norma and Olan Mills Professor of Divinity, and associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Theology, where he has taught since 2002. He serves on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Church Music and the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops. His past research has focused on religion in the early modern Church of England. He is currently working on a study of the sacramental piety of the Church of England in the 1680s and on a project surveying the breadth of worship in the present-day Episcopal Church (see the survey at


Professor Dan Backlund, Theatre and Dance, Director of Lifelong Learning

Dan is completing his thirtieth year as a Professor of Theatre Arts at Sewanee where he teaches scenic design, lighting design, scenic painting, construction, CAD, model making, and scuba diving. Since 1976, Dan has worked professionally as a designer, scenic artist, and member of the production staff for more than 550 projects in nineteen states and two countries creating scenery, lighting, and environmental designs for theatre, dance, opera, television, special events, live concerts, designed public space murals, museum, library, and restaurant environments, as well as residential, commercial, and other public spaces. Dan has also served as Interim Dean of Students, Manager of the Sewanee-Franklin County Airport, and Assistant Provost for Summer Programs. Dan received his undergraduate training at Bradley University in Illinois, and received his Master of Fine Arts from the North Carolina School of the Arts. Dan also serves on the Franklin County Rescue Squad, and as a State Instructor for Dive Rescue and Rural Search and Rescue classes. He also is a Flight and Instrument Instructor (Airplane), a Master Scuba Diving Instructor, and is certified as a Master Underwater Criminal Investigator.





Use the form below to secure your spot in the Summer Seminar.




Blast from the Past



2008 Session 1 Participants
  2009 Session 1 2009 Session 2  
2010 Session 1 2010 Session 2 2011 Session 1 2011 Session 2
2012 Session 1 2012 Session 2 2013 Session 1 2013 Session 2
2014 Session 1 2014 Session 2 2015 Session 1 2015 Session 2