Simpson Colloquium 101
In this class, students will explore how human identity is shaped by the fear of the unknown – forces of Otherness that exist beyond the realm of individual experience. By reading literature and watching the occasional film, we will learn about the Greek gods and monsters in Homer’s Odyssey, the mysterious foreigner in Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the many ominous threats depicted in horror films. Philosopher Richard Kearney once said that strangers, gods, and monsters “occupy the frontier zone where reason falters and fantasies flourish.” These encounters with the unknown represent both peril and opportunity, evoking fear and desire, shaping who we are and who we long to be. In this class, we will learn how the imagination, in positing the Other, tells us much about ourselves.
I came to Iowa in 2003 from George Washington University, where I worked as a research associate in a public policy think tank. I left DC because as a graduate of a small liberal arts college, I knew that I wanted to teach at a place like Simpson, where real mentoring relationships between faculty and students are possible, and where questions of meaning play a key role in the educational experience.
As a member of the religion department, I teach courses in systematic and moral theology, as well as a Great Books course in the Western tradition. I have broad, varied interests in the field. My dissertation addressed the meaning of Jewish suffering for Christian moral theology after the Holocaust, a subject I have continued to study through a NEH seminar on medieval Jewish-Christian relations at Oxford University’s Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and two faculty seminars at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I have done work on church-state relations and political theory, including research on the implications of free speech for the protection of children. My recent research centers on the theological and political implications of seventeenth-century radical Calvinism. I also have interests in religion and culture, and while at Simpson I have taught courses on vampires, superheroes, witchcraft, and the devil.
I live in Des Moines with my wife Eva, a swine veterinarian, and our two spoiled and demanding dogs. In my spare time I like to cook, waste time on the PS3, read comic books, and root for Boston sports teams. Go Red Sox.
Hello, my name is MacKenzie Bills! I am from Altoona, Iowa- for those Iowans, I live a minute away from Adventureland! I will be a sophomore at one of my favorite places in the fall, Simpson College! My majors are International Relations and Political Science with minors in Religion and French. I will be your Simpson Colloquium Leader for “Strangers, Gods, and Monsters” colloquium class with Professor Mark Gammon. One reason I love Simpson is the ability to get involved on campus. I started my own club called Simpson Votes , I am Vice President of Pre-law society and Simpson Democrats, am a Culver Fellow and I am a member of Pi Beta Phi. When I am not in the library studying, you will find me hanging out with my friends, watching “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation”, or attending the numerous events on campus. There is always something happening at Simpson!
I am an outgoing and friendly person. I love to meet and chat with new people. My goal is to make sure that each one of you is comfortable on campus and have an easy transition to college life. I am always accessible via phone, Facebook, or twitter! I am here as a lending ear if you have any questions or want to chat! I can’t wait to meet each and every one of you! Simpson is a wonderful place and I can’t wait for you to see what it has in store for you!
Meet Your Writing Fellow
Hello all, my name is Ben Rodgers and I will be your writing fellow. I will be a junior this upcoming year at Simpson College. I’m currently studying Multi-Media Journalism and am the perspectives, arts, and life-styles editor for the Simpsonian student newspaper. I am also active on Campus Activities Board and Sigma Alpha Epsilon National Fraternity. In my free time I enjoy playing and listening to music, along with being outdoors doing activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and canoeing.