MacLean Chair Focuses on Middle East History and Irish Culture

Monday, September 17, 2012

by Kimberly Starr '12

John Wrynn, S.J., former chair and professor of history at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., joins Saint Joseph’s University as the current Donald I. MacLean, S.J., Chair for the 2012 -13 academic year.

Fr. Wrynn has taught at Saint Peter’s for nearly 40 years. During the fall semester at Saint Joseph’s, he is teaching an upper-level course on the history of the modern Middle East (1798-2000) that will cover its effect on the contemporary world. For the spring semester, he will offer a course in Irish history.

“In the Middle East course, I hope to help students become more cognizant of what is at stake there, and also to realize that old problems can take on new faces,” says Fr. Wrynn. “In a way, it's really to help make sense of a part of the world that is very volatile.”

Along with teaching the Middle East history course, Fr. Wrynn will deliver the annual MacLean Chair lecture on November 12, in which he will discuss the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic movement in many Arab states. Fr. Wrynn feels the topic is especially relevant now as Egypt’s current president, Mohamed Morsi, was once part of the Brotherhood. “I hope to examine what sort of a force the new Muslim Brotherhood is imaging,” he says.

Fr. Wrynn’s fascination with the Middle East began when he discovered the literature of Naguib Mahfouz, the first Arabic author to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. In 1994-95, he received a fellowship that allowed him to travel and experience the Middle East first-hand.

The spring semester course will center on historical Ireland, beginning with the introduction of European traders and monastic missionaries to the island in the fifth century. It culminates in the generation of Ireland joining the European Community (Union). Having spent nearly every summer in Ireland during the 1980s, either doing academic research or working on his command of the Irish language, Fr. Wrynn, developed a strong interest in the long cultural history of the country where his mother and father were born.

The Donald I. MacLean, S.J., Chair is held by members of the Society of Jesus who are accomplished teachers and scholars in the arts and sciences. Established to emphasize that the University's Jesuit identity is inseparable from the finest teaching, scholarship and collegiate discourse, the Chair is named in honor of the University's 24th president.

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