Indiana University Bloomington
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Victor Danner Memorial Lecture Series

danner Professor Victor Danner was born on October 22, 1926, in Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico, to Arthur James and Maria Lopez Danner. As a young man, he served his country during WWII. After the war he attended Georgetown University where he received his BA magna cum laude in 1957. Later that year he traveled to Morocco to become an instructor and eventually Director of the American Language Center, sponsored by the US Information Service. While there he took advantage of the opportunity not only to get acquainted with the country but also to perfect his knowledge of classical Arabic texts.

In 1964, Professor Danner returned to the US for his doctoral studies and graduated from Harvard in 1970. He came to Indiana University in 1967 as a professor of Arabic and Religious Studies, a position he held until his death in 1990. He served as Chairman of the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department for five years, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Middle Eastern Studies Program.

Professor Danner was an internationally renowned scholar in the fields of Islamic mysticism, comparative religion, and classical Arabic literature. In 1976, he was invited to speak at the international World Festival of Islam in London. Professor Danner was also active in a number of professional organizations, including the Foundation for Traditional Studies, for which he served as Secretary-Treasurer. He wrote Ibn 'Ata 'Allah's Sufi Aphorisms (1973); Ibn 'Ata 'Allah: The Book of Wisdom, (1978); and The Islamic Tradition: An Introduction (1988), in addition to over twenty-five articles and reviews.

One of his students, Lauri King Irani, captured his essence: "As a teacher, Victor Danner had few equals. He taught Arabic, classical Arabic literature, Islam, Sufism, the Qur'an, comparative religion, comparative mysticism, and Eastern religions. His dignified bearing, elegant gestures, and verbal eloquence transformed his lectures into performances which had the power to captivate and inspire his students, whether he was discussing Arabic grammar or Islamic theology. His concern for and encouragement of his students, coupled with his understated sense of humor, earned him a well-deserved reputation as a caring and committed educator who taught not only when behind the classroom lectern, but also by example."


Upcoming Danner Lecture

The Quest for Enlightenment in Classical Islam: Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy ibn Yaqzan

Professor Sebastian Günther
Wednesday, April 16, 2013 at 7:15 PM
President's Room, University Club, Indiana Memorial Union
Sebastian Guenther

Sebastian Günther, is Professor and Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Professor Günther’s research focuses on the intellectual heritage of Islam, including the Quran, religious and philosophical thought, and Arabic belles-lettres. He is the co-editor of the Islamic History and Civilization series (Brill Academic Publishers) and is a board member of the Religion Compass (Blackwell Publishing). Professor Günther has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and international reference works. He is currently completing a monograph, Medieval Muslim Thinkers on Education, which surveys the educational philosophies offered by major Muslim scholars of the 8th to the 16th centuries, for the first time in a Western language. He has published Averroes and Thomas Aquinas on Education (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2012) and edited Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

Abstract: The quest for knowledge and human perfection is one of the most stimulating characteristics of classical Muslim scholarship. It has found its literary expression in a remarkable and quite diverse body of medieval Arabic writings on philosophy, theology, history and mysticism. In this literature, one book stands out for its particularly imaginative approach and its powerful language: the allegorical-philosophical novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan (or Alive, Son of Awake, as the Arabic title of this book can be rendered into English), written in Islamic Spain by the distinguished Muslim thinker Ibn Tufayl (1110-1185 CE). This narrative tells the intriguing story of a boy who grows up on a remote island, alone and without contact to human civilization, and who finds God solely through intellectual endeavor.

The Danner Lecture 2014 is devoted to Ibn Tufayl’s coming-of-age story, one of the most creative works of Islam’s classical intellectual heritage. It will explore this work in its historical and intellectual contexts, examining closely its Muslim predecessors and its reception in Islamic lands and in medieval Christian Europe and, in the process, will inquire into the perceptions of classical Muslim thinkers concerning the power and the freedom of the human intellect in seeking human growth, happiness, and salvation.

This event is co-sponsored by the College Arts & Humanities Institute, the Medieval Studies Institute, and the Islamic Studies Program.

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Previous Victor Danner Memorial Lectures

Eleventh Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Khaled El-Rouayheb, "Rethinking the Canons of Islamic Intellectual History," April 15, 2013

Tenth Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Wael Hallaq, "The Islamic State and Moral Philosophy: Engaging Post-Modernity," April 4, 2012

Ninth Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
James W. Morris, "'Servants of the All-Compassionate': Building Communities of Realization in a Global Civilization," April 18, 2011 Eighth Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Michael Sells, "Qurrat al-ʿAyn: Reflections on Poetry, Mysticism, and Civilization in the Seventh Century Hijra," April 19, 2010 Seventh Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Ahmad Dallal, Circumscribing the Sacred: The Limits of the Law in Eighteenth-Century Islamic Traditions of Reform," March 25, 2009 Sixth Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Vincent Cornell, "Dialogues in the Vernacular: A Pragmatic Approach to Muslim—Non-Muslim Relations," April 7, 2008 Fifth Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
William Chittick, "Uncovering the Secrets of Consciousness: The Sufi Approach," April 13, 2007 Fourth Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Carl W. Ernst, "Sufism, Islam, and Globalization in the Contemporary World: Methodological Reflections on a Changing Field of Study," April 15, 2006 Third Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Sachiko Murata, "Sufi Teachings in Neo-Confucian Islams," April 25, 2005 Second Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "Religious and Islamic Studies in America," April 15, 2004
First Annual Victor Danner Memorial Lecture
Huston Smith, "The Master-Disciple Relationship," February 26, 2003
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