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Faith and Culture Author to Direct StoryCorps Partnership

February 7, 2012 – Author Paul Elie will direct a Georgetown partnership with StoryCorps, the acclaimed documentary organization, as a new senior fellow with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

Elie is best known for his prize-winning book on four writers – including Flannery O’Connor – called The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage.

Since 2008, he also has moderated Georgetown’s Faith & Culture series, which invites writers to talk about their work in the context of religion and culture.

American Stories

The partnership with StoryCorps will be known as the American Pilgrimage Project, and is designed to gather, record and share ordinary Americans’ stories on the role of religious belief in their lives.

“I am thrilled to be joining Georgetown and the Berkley Center,” Elie says. “There's no place in the United States – no place in the English-speaking world – where the Catholic faith, the Jesuit dynamism, the role of religion and society, and the arts and humanities are considered all together the way they are at Georgetown.”

A longtime senior editor with Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York, the author has written on religion and other subjects for The Atlantic, The New York Times, Commonweal, among others.

Reinventing Bach

The Life You Save May Be Your Own, published in 2003, is a group portrait of four American Catholic writers –O'Connor, Walker Percy, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day.

The book won awards in Christianity and Literature and Literature of the South from the Modern Language Association, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography.

Elie will complete a second book, Soundabout: Reinventing Bach, while serving at the Berkley Center.

“It’s the story of how gifted musicians from Albert Schweitzer to Yo-Yo Ma have taken advantage of new technology to reinvent the music of Bach for our time,” Elie says.

Faith, Literature and Art

The author believes that “questions of faith are dramatized especially vividly and powerfully in works of literature and art.”

“We can't understand the religious situation of our time without giving sustained attention to the ways those questions have been framed by novelists, essayists, artists, musicians and the like,” he explains.

Elie will be based in New York but regularly visit the Berkley Center, which is planning a series of events around the American Pilgrimage Project and the author’s work, engaging both faculty and students.

Exciting Opportunity

“The American Pilgrimage Project is an exciting opportunity to explore the changing role of faith in our society at a time of growing religious and cultural diversity,” says Thomas Banchoff, the Berkley Center’s director. “Paul Elie’s deep literary and cultural expertise will strengthen our work at the intersection of religion, society and public affairs."

Elie says he’s also looking forward to resuming the university’s Faith & Culture series with novelist Alice McDermott and other writers.

“I can't imagine a better place to undertake all this than the Berkley Center and Georgetown, and I am eager to begin,” he says.