Our PhD students conduct research in a wide variety of subject areas--to find out more about their work click on the tabs below.

Jawhar Dawood

Thesis title: Lexical Cohesion in the Qur’an. The surah: disjointed or interwoven?

Research: My research examines how the Qur’an uses vocabulary selection to create lexical unity for the surah. At first glance, the surah appears to be a collection of disjointed passages that are put together randomly without a clear sense of organization. A closer examination, however, reveals that the surah’s different passages share common linguistic features that give them a distinct lexical unity. Every surah seems to have a dictionary of its own from which it takes its building blocks: phonemes, words, and structures. The way these basic linguistic elements are used in the qur’anic corpus suggests that the Qur’an has a special mechanism for selecting its lexical resources and grammatical structures. Words seem to come together to form ayahs and ayahs to form surahs, not only to convey a certain content, but also to create a certain form. The product of this selection mechanism is an unmistakable identity for both the form and content of the Qur’an. Far from being an assortment of randomly collected passages, the surah seems to be a tightly organized text whose parts are interconnected through an intricate network of linguistic components. The purpose of my research is to uncover and reveal this complex lexical cohesion in the surah and, as a corollary, to show that such highly accurate deployment of linguistic elements can only be the result of an intelligent design.

Muhammad Ishak

Thesis title: The principle of consequences in Islamic finance 

Research: My research in general tries to find a better approach for the current Islamic financial system. In fact, this industry has been developed dramatically since the late of 21 century, in Muslim countries and several non-Muslim countries, like the United Kingdom, the United State, Luxembourg, Hong Kong and Singapore. However, as a young player, Islamic finance faces a number of challenges and restrictions, which have affected its system. The most obvious obstacle is that its products have to compete with interest-based conventional products that sometimes seem to be more attractive to the myriad of customers. Consequently, most of the Islamic products are designed based on debt-based financing like their conventional counterpart as some critics claim that they are just mere imitations of conventional products in Islamic ‘make-up’.

In this regards, under the supervision of Dr Dawoud El-Alami, I choose to apply the principle of consequences in analysing and improving some of Islamic financial products. This principle is a practical method to ensure the consequences of the Islamic practices do not deviate from their original objectives. In regards to Islamic finance, it is important to realize the spirit of Islam in structuring the financial products as well as their formations. In other words, instead of restricting the view of the form of contract and legal technicalities, financial facilities in Islam must ensure justice, equity, transparency, circulation of wealth among the people, as well as preserving them from harm and hardship.

Verity Kahn

Thesis title: The Mythical Dimension of the Declaration of Independence 

Research: Under the supervision of Professor Robert Segal, my thesis applies selected theories of myth to the Declaration of Independence. To call the Declaration ‘mythic’ is nothing new; this characterisation can be found throughout the various histories of the American Revolution. However they typically take ‘myth’ to simply mean false belief without any familiarity with the scholarly study of myth. Instead, I aim to understand the Declaration as mythic in a positive sense: as something which serves a specific function within society, regardless of any truth claims. By using specific theories of myth, my thesis will attempt to explain the reverence given to the Founding Fathers, the lasting cultural influence of the Declaration, and the continued use of its preamble within American political rhetoric. I am attempting not to replace the various legal, philosophical and historical analyses but rather add to them in explaining the significance the Declaration continues to have for Americans. In doing so, I hope to present the Declaration of Independence as a modern, American, creation myth.

Spencer Reese

Thesis title: Divine Curiosity: Heroes of the Metaphysical Romances Alice in Wonderland and Phantastes

Research: My research examiners the "metaphysical romance," one exploring "the nature of good and evil and...human destiny in its supernatural aspect." Analyzing works from a mythgraphic standpoint allows us to see the hero is at once a collective and personal encounter, as each individual identifies personally with the hero's story, while the hero simultaneously embodies the collective hopes and ideals of the culture that creates him or her. Focusing on Northrop Frye's "quest-myth"--comprised of four broader stages of a hero's journey cycle: birth, triumph, isolation, and defeat of the hero--and his theories of archetypal criticism, I intend to illuminate how the inherent appeal of the heroine's initiation in relation to Alice in Alice in Wonderland compared to that of the hero Anodos' in Phantastes stresses the importance of studying such "fantasy myths" from a theological venue as a way of studying ourselves in the balance between things natural, maternal, and questing, and things powerful, paternal, and warring.

Jane-Anne Shaw

Thesis title: Life and Afterlife: Athanasia (immortality) and the figure of Orpheus 

Research: My research examines the history and myth of Orpheus, the ancient world the Thracian inhabited and, inter alia, mapping an overview of his origins. In unravelling discrete strands of the myth, I examine aspects of its development, including ancient Greek concepts of immortality and where the figure of Orpheus has been adapted, adopted and utilised down to contemporary times.

I analyse three modern uses of the myth, re-drawing versions of the figure: a ‘Once & Future Orpheus,’ his metamorphoses as an outsider and agent of change, and his passage symbolism – ‘Don’t look back’. My MA dissertation was in the field of religion and the individual in ancient Greek society. The Greeks were obsessed with the past; it suffused every facet of their culture. The poets and tragedians established in the Greek mind the composition of divine order, and reason (‘logos’) did not remove myth (‘muthos’) from ancient society. The cumulative legacy, and the emotional and social support it provided, was very potent.

Paul Cantz

Thesis title: A Critical Comparison Between Hebraic and Ancient Greek Myths and Motifs Concerning Aging and Death

Research: My research spans the domains of psychoanalysis, mythology, and religious studies. I have published and presented on the topics of the intellectual foundations of psychiatry, the dynamics of religious conversion, death anxiety, cross cultural concepts of femininity, psychodynamics of music, the historical uniqueness of baseball, the connection between misogyny and Antisemitism, the bio-ethical ramifications of the anti-aging movement, and most recently on the rise in popularity of dystopian films and television programs. I am a licensed, board certified clinical psychologist and Associate Director of Training/Associate Professor at Adler University, Chicago, IL; Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine; Coordinator for the UIC Program in Religion, Spirituality & Mental Health and an adjunct faculty member at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.