Many students of the PCCC community have possibly crossed paths with Dr. Richard Marranca, Professor of English and Humanities.
In this past summer, Dr. Marranca was awarded an NEH GRANT, which stands for the National Endowment for the Humanities. This was awarded in order for him to study Asian religions at Holy Cross College.
Since its creation in 1965, NEH has awarded more than $5.6 billion for humanities projects through more than 64,000 grants. Marranca has been a recipient for several of these grants.
I sat with him to get an insight into his experience this summer.
Can you walk me through the process of receiving the grant- how did it come into fruition?
"I've had about 6 or 7 grants-I think this one will be the last one I try for. As they are harder and harder to get. But I will dedicate my time to encourage faculty here to apply for it.
I applied for two awards- so one was the summer award... where professors, high school teachers, etc. get to travel to another campus. I applied in January and heard back in March.
It's definitely one of the most fortunate things available in higher education right now. You get all this knowledge and get to share it with students forever."
I know that you have worked with different colleges and universities- how did Holy Cross come to be the school you worked with for the grant?
"I applied twice- the one I received was to study Ritual Arts in Hinduism and Buddhism at Holy Cross and the other one was focused on Buddhism and the imagination at Berkley in California. But I wanted to be closer to home and bring my wife and child as well."
What sparked your interest in studying religion- specifically Asian religion?
"I've traveled a lot and my interests like anything, y’know they go back to childhood- when you go to a museum, travel, or when you meet new people.
I like this grant because most people in the West who study this stuff tend to orientalize it, they tend to minimize it to intellectual stuff- things you can read in abstract intellectual text. But this grant studies rituals and art in this tradition- it wasn’t just studying text- which obviously minimizes it.
So that’s why I was interested- its what I never studied."
What information that you studied stands out the most for you?
"Great question! The priest and nun taught us various rituals and meditation techniques I didn’t know much about. One professor from Oxford presented us videos of his time in Tebet- including a ritual to get rid of vampires in your house. That was very colorful! Its one thing to read about this stuff your whole lifetime-but then when you get some world class historian, priest or nun- its on another level."
From your research, what message would you like your readers to take with them?
"The modern world has many things available to us that weren’t available in prior generations- but this also has numeral challenges of: too much technology, human overpopulation, pollution, risks involved in confrontation between countries and people. Even sitting too much! One thing you can learn by studying world religion is that these things from wisdom tradition- medicine, prayer, yoga, walking- are tools that have been used for thousands of years and have been effective. What they felt intuitively- now science proves."
What was your biggest takeaway from this experience? As a teacher and in many ways a student.
"I would say there are two takeaways. I will be able to give people a fuller view of myth and religion. For myself- I would say it inspires me to see more."
Where could students find your research or other works?
"I have not written anything on the grant because I've been working on fiction... and on my Egypt book! (A part of the book consists of interviews with Egyptologists.) I hope to get to the grant soon!
Professor Marranca's recent published works can be found in the link below!