|Catherine M. Wallace is a cultural critic with a PhD in English literature from the University of Michigan.
The author of four trade-press books, including a memoir, she is a published poet, a frequent reviewer, and an award-winning essayist.
She won regular teaching awards as a professor in the English department at Northwestern University, and later she served as Writer in Residence at Seabury Theological Seminary on a grant from the Lilly Endowment.
She lectures regularly in the Chicago area, teaches occasionally in the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, and leads private writing workshops.
This site offers a selection of her work, and she welcomes your responses: click here to leave her a message.
I'm intrigued by the moral and philosophical complexity of the issues we face in our own ordinary lives. We have to make decisions about money, sex, religion, and gender roles. We have to cope with the demands of our careers, with the changing stages of family life, and with the pressures of a consumer culture. Above all, perhaps, we have to decide what matters most in our lives—and why. I think we will make wise, freer, more authentic choices if we can become more alert to the invisible assumptions that shape our own cultural moment.
At the moment I’m tinkering around with two different projects: a collection of essays on writing and the writing process, and a book manuscript I’ve tentatively titled GodTalk 101. The GodTalk project has two parts. First, I engage strong versions of the classic skeptical arguments that Christianity is a silly waste of time at best, and at worst a pernicious source of violence. Second, I take an intentionally literary and poetic look at certain key doctrinal claims. For instance, saying that Jesus is the “son of God” is clearly not a claim about extraterrestrial Y-chromosomes. But then what are believers trying to say? My explanation will be influenced by thinkers as diverse as Brian McLaren & Peter Rollins, Sandra Schneiders & James Alison, and Marcus Borg & John Dominick Crossan. And my brother Jack Miles, too (www.jackmiles.com). (On the subject of brothers, see also my brother Mike Miles, banjo player extraordinaire and an incredible historian as well: www.milesmusic.org).
My goal in the GodTalk project is not to proselytize anyone, but rather to clear space wherein believers and nonbelievers can regard one another with respect and understanding. Secular humanists and Christians share a deep commitment to personal integrity and to serving the common good, and on that basis we could do a lot of good in this suffering world. We could also avoid a lot of unnecessary tension in families where some people believe and others do not and nobody quite knows how to deal with that reality graciously. I feel that Christians who recognize this state of affairs have a genuine obligation to begin this conversation, because we are the ones with a long history of condemning dissenters—and because Jesus was noted for his wildly inclusive and deeply unconventional hospitality.
At one point I was running a GodTalk blog in conjunction with lectures I was giving from this project. Here are some of the comments people left on that site. Most signed these posts with their full names, but I’ve dropped the names here: this is a much more public site than that little blog.
Intellect combined with accessibility; insight combined with humor--Cate Wallace brings these attributes to her lectures and discussions. I urge as many of you as possible to attend as many of her programs as possible! You will come away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the "big questions" of our times.
I cannot wait to usher in the New Year with God Talk 101. Cate's brilliant work, I am certain, will edge me forward toward new understanding. In all my studies with Cate, I leave only wanting more as she opens many doors within that leave you nourished yet, seeking.
If we are really lucky sometimes we run across someone who illuminates knotty questions for us. Cate Wallace is one of those people. Through her Godtalk classes she helps us mortals untangle the complicated issues of religion/ philosophy/ morality.
It's always a treat to hear Cate untangle especially tangled topics, and this series looks like it will cover some of the knottiest! Cate is able to condense, without reducing, extremely complex subjects into a few manageable kernels of information. From there a group can discuss and confront the core of the issue. I always put Cate's appearances on my calendar, and have always been enriched and enlightened by her talks.
Even though Cate's brilliance leaves me speechless, I leave her classes with a wealth of MindTalk. And despite the racket of critics, I leave philosophically and scientifically armed against the hackneyed objections to religion.
.......What Cate does is a miracle! She opens for me, a world in which I would never travel. A brilliant, special, witty, woman!
Cate's insightful lines of critical thinking always draw me into new perspectives, ways of looking at the old or obvious, through a philosopher's or theologian's or writer's lens. I pretty much marvel at her brilliant, well-read mind (and incredible vocabulary), but I most appreciate her compassion and sensitivity as we ponder together spiritual concerns of the soul. A class or lecture with Cate, especially when offered close by, is not to be missed!
I'm delighted to look forward to being with Cate to enjoy her humorous, respectful, grounded deconstruction of complicated religious/ spiritual/ philosophical stuff.
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