Conversation on "Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life"

Feb 2, 2022
Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture
1025 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Zena HitzSt. John's College

Erin WalshUniversity of Chicago

Free and open to the public. Cosponsored by the Undergraduate Program in Religious Studies at the University of Chicago. Copies of the book will be available for sale by the Seminary Co-op Bookstore at the event. This program will be held as a hybrid, in-person and online event. 

Join us for a conversation on Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life (Princeton University Press, 2020) with author Zena Hitz. 



In an overloaded, superficial, technological world, in which almost everything and everybody is judged by its usefulness, where can we turn for escape, lasting pleasure, contemplation, or connection to others? While many forms of leisure meet these needs, Zena Hitz writes, few experiences are so fulfilling as the inner life, whether that of a bookworm, an amateur astronomer, a birdwatcher, or someone who takes a deep interest in one of countless other subjects. Drawing on inspiring examples, from Socrates and Augustine to Malcolm X and Elena Ferrante, and from films to Hitz’s own experiences as someone who walked away from elite university life in search of greater fulfillment, Lost in Thought is a passionate and timely reminder that a rich life is a life rich in thought.

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. And while anyone can have an intellectual life, she encourages academics in particular to get back in touch with the desire to learn for its own sake, and calls on universities to return to the person-to-person transmission of the habits of mind and heart that bring out the best in us.

Reminding us of who we once were and who we might become, Lost in Thought is a moving account of why renewing our inner lives is fundamental to preserving our humanity.


We will also host a lunch discussion with Zena Hitz for graduate students and faculty at 1:00 p.m. on February 2.

This convening is open to all invitees who are compliant with UChicago vaccination requirements and, because of ongoing health risks, particularly to the unvaccinated, participants are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures (masking and social distancing, etc.) appropriate to their vaccination status as advised by public health officials or to their individual vulnerabilities as advised by a medical professional. Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

If you are not currently affiliated with the University (enrolled student, faculty, or staff) it is expected that you review the University’s COVID mitigation efforts. The University expects every event attendee to adopt precautions designed to mitigate the risk of viral transmission.

Event attendees will be required to wear a N-95, KN-95, or KF-94 mask in Swift Hall. KN-95 masks will be provided  for anyone who needs one.

If you have any questions, please contact us.


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.

Erin Walsh is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature in the University of Chicago Divinity School. She studies ancient and late antique Christianity with a focus on Syriac language and literature. Her current research focuses on the reception of biblical literature and the growth of asceticism within the eastern Roman and Persian Empires. Dr. Walsh is working on a book project examining the Nachleben of unnamed New Testament women in Syriac and Greek poetry, highlighting the work of Narsai of Nisibis, Jacob of Serugh, and Romanos Melodos. She teaches and writes upon a variety of topics in New Testament literature, the history of Biblical interpretation, Syriac language and literature, embodied practices, religious poetry, and multilingualism in the late antique and early Byzantine east. She is an affiliated faculty member with the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago. During the 2018-2019 academic year, she was a Junior Fellow in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University. Professor Walsh also serves as the Executive Editor for Christianity at Ancient Jew Review, a non-profit web journal devoted to the interdisciplinary study of ancient Judaism.