Thinking Inside and Outside the University: Zena Hitz on the Inner Life

Nov 10, 2020
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Zena HitzSt. John's College

Jared OrtizHope College

Free and open to the public. This event will be held online through Zoom (registration required) and YouTube live-stream. This event is presented by the Lumen Christi Institute Forum on the Church in Higher Education as part of its Liberal Arts Colloquium. This event is cosponsored by The Point magazine, the Saint Benedict Institute, Calvert House Catholic CenterPrinceton University Press, and the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage.

In a world where efficiency and utility are the standards by which we measure success, how do we appreciate what resists quantification? And at a moment of institutional change and instability for higher education, what do we hold onto?

In her new book, Lost in Thought, Zena Hitz lays out the case for the inner life as a good in itself. Today, when even the humanities are often defended only for their economic or political usefulness, Hitz says our intellectual lives are valuable not despite but because of their practical uselessness. Within or without institutional structures, the intellectual life offers a source of meaning and fulfillment.

In this webinar conversation with Jared Ortiz, Hitz will elucidate the hidden pleasures of contemplation, assess the possibilities for its re-emergence in the contemporary university, and debate whether figures as dissimilar as the Virgin Mary, Albert Einstein, and Malcom X can be said to participate in a common intellectual activity.



Zena Hitz is a Tutor at St. John’s College.  She holds a BA from St. John’s College, an MA from Cambridge, and a PhD from Princeton. Prior to teaching at St. John’s, she taught philosophy at Auburn University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. She is author of Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life (Princeton University Press, 2020), and has recently begun the Catherine Project, an online non-credit Oxford-style tutorial program on great books and fundamental questions. She is the recipient of the 2020 Hiett Prize in the Humanities.

Jared Ortiz is Associate Professor of Religion at Hope College and Executive Director of the Saint Benedict Institute. He holds a BA from the University of Chicago, an MA from St. John's College, and an MA and PhD from Catholic University of America. Prof. Ortiz works on Latin patristic thought, especially St. Augustine. His current research is in the themes of politics, holiness and disability in Augustine’s City of God.  He is author of You Made Us for Yourself: Creation in St. Augustine's Confessions (Fortress Press, 2016).