Class Feature: AUREL 290


I was incredibly fortunate this week to have the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Patrick Hart, practicing lawyer and assistant lecturer, to speak with him for this issue regarding his class, his research, and his life. 

The Dagligtale: Regarding AUREL 290, was there anything that made you interested in teaching this course over another?

“Yeah, for sure. I would preface it by saying I’m never dissatisfied with a course I teach. My interests are very wide-ranging… Having said that, this one does hold a special place for me, and the reason for that is for me it’s kind of like coming full circle in terms of my own academic interests. It wasn’t the same course, but a very similar course that I took years ago, and it was that course with a particular professor–Willi Braun, who became my PhD supervisor at the North Campus–that forever changed my own interests and it steered me in a particular academic direction, really. So it was a very pivotal course for me under his tutelage and getting the chance to revisit that for the first time in about twenty years has been amazing for me.”

The Dag: So you went to school at North Campus, then?

“I’d say that probably ninety percent of my post-secondary has been at North Campus. I did a couple years of law school at Queens in Kingston. I did my Bachelor of Arts in Edmonton, then I went to law school and did two out of three years at Queens, then came back to the U of A for the last year just so that I could come back home. I finished that and after I finished my law degree I did an MA in religious studies at North Campus, then I went into practicing law for a few years before returning to Edmonton to finish my PhD.” 

The Dag: Would you say you have a favorite topic within this course that you find most interesting to talk about?

“I guess an obvious answer would be ‘yes.’ I love anything to do with Paul because that was the focus of my PhD research, but I wouldn’t hold to that too strongly, because all of it that we’ve gone through I love. I love looking at little tidbits and thematic things and authorship debates when it comes to the Gospels, I really like looking at and reading noncanonical things as well that we’ve encountered, so even though my own background has this focus on Paul I really like a lot of stuff in the New Testament and I love engaging with that which isn’t in it as well.”

The Dag: You’ve mentioned past research, and in that vein, what sort of research are you doing right now?

“My doctoral dissertation wasn’t on Paul, in a way. It was on how scholarship approaches the study of Paul. It was basically about the conditions under which any of us engage with any historical examination of this guy Paul, and it’s something that I’ve long found really fascinating. Once I finished that for various reasons I’ve kind of not been interested in researching Paul anymore. It’s maybe a bit of burnout, but I still find Paul very interesting! I guess that relates back to that I have diverse interests. These days my interests are a little more law-oriented. I’m interested in contemporary intersections between religion and law. Certainly in Alberta but worldwide in recent decades there has been an increase in what’s called ‘vexatious litigation,’ or people who abuse the court system. There are some who abuse the system who adhere to a particular worldview where they view their religious beliefs as being superior to whatever law is set out by humans… So a particular iteration of that is people who essentially argue that the authority of the Bible, for example, is superior to anything human-made law has to say. I find that topic tremendously interesting because the courts from time to time encounter these people and it’s a challenge for the legal system to evaluate this stuff. We delve into that too in the Religion & Law course.”

The Dag: What would you say is your favorite part about teaching?

“I think I would say that at a broad level what I always find the most enjoyable, or when things are most enjoyable for me, is when people and students in the class are asking questions and offering opinions that suggest to me that they’re actually finding the material interesting. That to me is tremendously satisfying. While I wouldn’t say again that I have a favorite class or anything, those moments when people are engaged, there’s nothing better than that.”

The Dag: Do you have any hobbies or engagements apart from teaching?

“Well, when I’m not teaching, I run a law office, so that takes up a lot of my time! I try to maintain some kind of balance between that and teaching, although in all honesty I have far more a passion for the academic end of things, and if I was forced to make a decision one way or the other I might just be tempted to choose teaching. As for hobbies, I like sports, hockey, I love tennis, I like to read. Mostly nonfiction, maybe ninety-nine percent of what I read. I usually read things that are pertinent to my teaching or to law. Most of my fiction consumption comes from movies.”

Next year Dr. Hart will be teaching Law, Politics, & the Judicial Process; Modern Ethics; Introduction to Western Philosophy; and Religion & Law. 

Dr. Patrick Hart, photo used with permission.

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