Prof Matthews

Gray Matthews


(901) 678-2565
Art & Communication Bldg 245F
Office Hours
Contact for office hours and appointments.


I work from a philosophical approach to communication that is both contemplative and critical in theory and method. This approach has involved a long effort to rehabilitate the term, concept and experience of contemplation from a grave reduction within the modern system of Western thought. I have drawn philosophical support from other cultural traditions, particularly indigenous traditions that have historically resisted the dualities of thought and emotion that alienate the primordial relation between human life and all other living beings and things. Indigenous cultures continue to maintain an understanding of life as deeply interrelated, a viewpoint that was disrupted and traumatized by modernity's severance of rationality from the contemplative dimensions of life and subsequent eradication of diverse languages, cultures and peoples—ways of expressing ways of living.

Today, we produce thought by action-oriented thinking, but no longer wonder what produces thinking? For me, our struggle to live in relation to other forms and ways of life should deepen our contemplation of the life of life. Communication is a complex, expressive process of living that I argue is as contemplative as it is active. We have been conditioned to think of communication, unfortunately, primarily in terms of action since modernity severed thought from contemplative life and put a system of rationalizing a "new world" into strategic service for what became colonialism. Thus my work seeks to repair the breach between contemplation and thought-action in communicative life. Currently, there is growing support for non-dominating forms of thought through global efforts to decolonize the mind and our societies.

The 2020 pandemic has simply revealed to us how stressed we are in still trying to manage a dysrelated world while denying other living beings and things a universal right to breathe. Thus my research aims to ally with all efforts to rouse human reason-and-action from a self-deadening sleep so that we can recover and resume living more fully as communicative beings in a way that promotes "the art of life" as Alfred Whitehead defined the function of reason to be: To live, to live better and to live well in sharing, not destroying, this living world.

Therefore, I am a communication scholar who sees contemplation as a radical mode of inquiry into the relational depths of a living life and a critical theorist who opposes perpetuating dysrelationality.


Ph.D. The Pennsylvania State University, 1993
M.A. Memphis State University, 1986
B.A. Covenant College, 1983



Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, 1990-Present


Assistant Chair, Department of Communication, 2010-2014

Honors and Awards

University of Memphis Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, 1996
Tennessee Speech Communication Association Educator of the Year, 1996
Dean's Top Three Student 3 Advisers, 1995 & 1997

Scholarship of Integration

Teaching Interests:

Contemplative Communication
Listening and Dialogue
Ethics and Community
Rhetoric and Society

Research Interests

Contemplation, criticism and action of communication
Philosophies, forms and modes of communicative life
Silence, symbolization and rhetorical force
Solitude, relations and communion

Selected Publications

"Thomas Merton's Early Essays: 1947-1952," The Merton Annual. v. 28 (2016), 234-236 {book review}.
"And There Was Endlessness:" The Merton Seasonal 41.2 Summer 2016, 30-31 {book review}
"Reverdure in the Wind," We Are Already One: Thomas Merton's Message of Hope (Louisville: Fons
Vitae, 2015){book chapter}.
"The Heart of the Fire: Technology, Commotion and Contemplation." The Merton Annual 24, 2011, 128-149
{journal article}.

Current Book Project

"The Long Art: Contemplation and the Living Life"

Selected Presentations:

"Communion as Problematic for Communicative Life," National Communication Association Convention, Spiritual
Communication Division, Dallas, TX, November 2017.
Keynote speaker, Annual Conference of the Spiritual Directors of Louisiana, Inc., May 22-24, 2015/ Presentation:
"Awakening to the Wisdom of Thomas Merton and the Long Art of Contemplation."
Keynote speaker for the Annual Conference of Contemplative Outreach of Central Florida, February 28, 2015,
Presentation: "Thomas Merton, the Commotion and the Long Art of Contemplation."
"The River Lectures: On Education for the Resumption of Living—Not the Business of Commotion" February
19-21, 2014, University of Memphis.
"The Missing Conversation and the Rebellion: Recovering the Arts of Sustaining Humane Communication,"
Southern Communication Association, Louisville, KY, April 2013.


Faculty Senate, University of Memphis (2011-2013, 2015-Present)
University Faculty Policies Committee (present)
University Faculty Handbook Committee (present)
University Ad Hoc Committee for Paid Parental Leave
University Library Committee (2011-2013, 2015-2016)
Department, College and University Curriculum Committees (varied years)
Member of the Editorial Board for The Merton Annual (2014-Present)
Coordinator for the Memphis Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society (2001-Present)