Franklin & Marshall Associate Professor of Religious Studies John Modern will spend the 2018-19 academic year at the University of Pennsylvania, working on a research project funded by a prestigious fellowship he received from the American Council of Learned Societies.
Each year, the Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellows program supports around 20 recently tenured faculty members as they pursue ambitious scholarships at consequential stages of their careers, according to ACLS. The program is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Before taking his fellowship at Penn’s McNeill Center for Early American Studies, Modern, in the 2017-18 academic year, will work at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J., as a member of the Institute’s School of Social Science.
Modern’s project is “The Religion Machine,” a book about the brain as an information-processing device that is neither religious nor secular.
“Cognition has become a central concern for those who practice religion, for those who speculate about the ways and means of God, as well as for those who seek to explain religion in the laboratory,” Modern said. “The brain, one could say, has long demanded obedience from scientists and supplicants alike.”
The project “offers historical leverage upon the depth, density, and diffusion of this obedience, otherwise known as the cognitive revolution,” Modern said. “‘The Religion Machine’ tells a story about cognitive science, politics, money and medicine that is infused with cosmic conjecture and religious allure."
Burkhardt Fellowship recipients receive a $95,000 stipend and a $7,500 research budget to take yearlong residencies at institutions where resources and scholarly communities suit their proposed research project.
“This program affirms the value of intellectual exchange and network-building among humanities scholars,” said Matthew Goldfeder, the council’s director of fellowship programs. “The fellows’ projects display the breadth and richness of humanities research today, and these individuals are poised to join their predecessors in becoming leaders in their fields and in the broader academy.”
Modern, who teaches classes in American religious history, literature, technology and aesthetics, is the author of “The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs,” and “Secularism in Antebellum America.”
He is currently co-editor of the new book series, Class 200: New Studies in Religion, published by the University of Chicago Press.