We were saddened to learn of the passing of Edmund Gilday, professor emeritus of religious studies. We remember attending his job talk as curious students, and he brought new energy to the department when he joined in 1995. Professor Gilday was incredibly generous with students. His door was always open, and he was always willing to talk through concepts that came up in class, map out research ideas, and provide advice.
In particular, we credit him with teaching us how to read academic texts. “Start with the table of contents,” he advised. “This is like an outline. If you can connect the chapter titles together in a coherent argument and relate them to the title of the book, then you have already learned something.
”If the chapters are divided into titled sections, do the same thing at that level. Build an argument in your mind by connecting the titles together. Then you do not need to focus on every word and sentence as you read. Simply pay attention to where the argument diverges from what you have in mind, ask yourself why it diverges, and decide whether that divergence is useful or interesting to you.”
We both continue to use this technique as needed, and J.R. now shares similar advice with his students. Thank you, Professor Gilday.