Architecture, Spirituality, and the Savannah Symposium

Presbyterian Church, Savannah, GA

So in February I presented a paper at the 7th Savannah Symposium sponsored by the Savannah College of Art & Design. The conference theme was the Spirituality of Place. In my ongoing professional identity crisis, I have claimed I am neither a religious historian nor an architectural historian and yet there I was presenting a paper that flirted with those very themes. I say flirted because the paper was really for a third audience that was not there–those interested in the literature of place. I talked about Natalie Goldberg‘s Long Quiet Highway, her memoir about how she came to the practice of Zen Buddhism and writing. Place (New Mexico and Minneapolis), space (the bigness of the Southwest), and the built environment (Santa Fe adobes and Minneapolis clapboards) played a key role in that journey.

This paper was really my first step in trying to figure out the direction of my new project and as I worked on it I realized I wanted to focus not just on Eastern spirituality, but also on folks who embraced New Age spirituality. I get in trouble when I mention Buddhism and New Age in the same sentence, but for many Americans it was a seemingly “natural” connection and I want to explore that more. I’m really interested in figuring out what de-institutionalized spirituality looks like.

In any case, Savannah in February was gorgeous and the folks at SCAD did a fabulous job, including offering several walking tours on Saturday afternoon and time on our own to have lunch on the veranda overlooking the river. I highly recommend it.

Chart House Restaurant

About Susan Myers-Shirk

Professor of cultural and intellectual history
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