How a Theology Professor Writes

Brendan Sammon, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology

Quick Facts

Pen or Pencil?
Computer, but if I’m writing in a journal: pen.

Favorite word?

Favorite place to write?
The Green Engine Café.

SJU Writes: Describe your writing process. Where does it begin?

BS: I suppose it begins in desire. There are two channels. The first being what already started for me in academia. I have a history of theological thought. The other would be creative and where those things take me. In terms of the process, I will write ideas out. The initial part would be writing down ideas and trying to articulate them. Those that I think can be directed into something more fruitful will take on an outlining process.

SJU Writes: Do you ever find inspiration when you are teaching?

BS: Yes. There will be a kind of interaction between what students know and what I know. Part of the theology of beauty means writing about the way in which the human attempts to create what we call “art.” How humans reflect, speak about the divine, speak about transcendence, speak about God and God’s presence in a variety of ways. There’s so much happening in a work of art, that’s why it pulls us in, but there’s a lot taken for granted. So, a good analysis of that would help us better foreground what it does for us and how it allows us to see things that aren’t so easily visible.

SJU Writes:  Explain your revision process.

BS: Endless. You get to a point where you never feel like it’s finished, but you have to release it at some point. Revision will entail lots of reading, looking at different ways to articulate an idea. I’m looking for context and  clarity,. These are ideas expressed that I want expressed. I’ve learned to distance myself from my writing because when you start publishing, you get rejected.

SJU Writes: Do you have any suggestions for students who are writing in your discipline?

BS: Clarity. And developing lines of thought. I think all writing requires a degree of self-awareness, and I think that the better the writing, the more self-aware an author is. I think students tend to become overwhelmed with the ideas, and they find it difficult then to articulate a line of thought. Or they will do it at the last minute. It’s what people put in that they get out.

SJU Writes: Why do you write?

BS: For the same reason I eat, sleep, and breathe. As another way to engage in the world and make a contribution of some kind.

—Rachel Zablocki M.A ’19