Literature & Spirituality: Helen Whitney

Event time: 
Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 1:15pm
Event description: 

Helen Whitney


A rare glimpse into the career of the Emmy award-winning filmmaker, whose work plumbs the depths of religious experience.

The Lana Schwebel Memorial Lecture in Religion and Literature

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2011 | 5:15 PM


Readings in Marquand Chapel followed by a book-signing and reception
Presented in collaboration with Yale Divinity Student Book Supply.

Helen Whitney has worked as a producer, director, and writer for documentaries and feature films since 1971. Her documentary work has appeared on ABC’s “Closeup” and PBS’s American Masters, as well as onFrontline. Her documentaries have ranged over a wide variety of subjects, among them: youth gangs, presidential candidates, the mentally ill, a Trappist Monastery, Pope John Paul II, the class structure of Great Britain, homosexuals, and the photographer Richard Avedon. Whitney maintains a passionate personal interest in the religious journey. Her 90-minute ABC News “Closeup” documentary, “The Monastery,” about the Cistercians in Spencer, Mass., left her searching for other projects about spiritual life. This passion was also evident in FRONTLINE’s “John Paul II: The Millennial Pope”, a film for which she and her team conducted more than 800 interviews in six countries. Whitney’s documentaries and features have received many honors, including an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award, an Oscar nomination, the Humanitas Award, and the prestigious DuPont-Columbia Journalism Award.

Throughout her career Helen Whitney has made religion her central subject. In addition to the sheer visual beauty of her work, and her extraordinary use of music as a mode of exploration, she is able to elicit from her interlocutors  powerful self-disclosures that inevitably plumb the depths. Her work brings us inside our most profound questions and longings.


The Lana Schwebel Memorial Lecture in Religion and Literature is offered in memory of the former faculty member at Yale Divinity School and Yale Institute of Sacred Music.