What We're Reading
In 2001, just days after the events of 9/11, moral philosopher Oliver O'Donovan gave a series of lectures for Calvin College and Calvin Seminary. The title for the series was taken from Augustine's The City of God, in which he defines a political community as "a multitude of rational beings united by agreeing to share the things they love." The lectures were subsequently published under the same name, Common Objects of Love. In them, O'Donovan reflects on the links between knowledge and love, on the nature of the Church as a moral community, and on the pernicious effects of institutions of "publicity," the massive volumes of mediated communication which subvert community in the fullest sense. [Posted April 2005, KAM]
New book tells the story of eugenics laws in North Carolina at the turn of the twentieth century.
In an interview on Volume 70 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Christine Rosen discusses her book Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement and the eugenics laws that some states—Virginia included—passed in the early twentieth century. The laws, she explains, were used as models for the eugenics practices the Nazis regime adopted. Now a book from the University of North Carolina Press, Choice & Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare, examines the eugenics laws of North Carolina and their lasting affect on the state and its members. [Posted March 2005, ALG]
Jonathan Edwards biographer George Marsden has received the 2005 Grawemeyer Award for religion.
Raise three cheers for University of Notre Dame professor George Marsden who has received the 2005 Grawemeyer Award for religion. The award honors Marsden for his recently published and much-heralded biography of Jonathan Edwards. Marsden discusses Jonathan Edwards: A Life on Volume 65 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.
The Grawemeyer awards pay tribute to creative works and ideas in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Charles Grawemeyer, a University of Louisville alumnus, established them in 1984. More information about the awards is available through the web pages of the Grawemeyer Foundation. [Posted December 2004, ALG]
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company has collected a number of professor Alan Jacobs's works in Shaming the Devil. The subtitle of the book, Essays in Truthtelling, aptly and succinctly expresses the task of the collection, which Jacobs (a guest on several volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal) describes as conducting experiments in truthtelling and the pursuit of truth. The work is divided into three parts: part one, titled "Exemplars," attends to great writers who have told the truth—and to the truths they have told—in their poems, novels, and books; part two, "Explorations," studies additional writers, along with how they have succeeded and fallen short in pursuing truth; and part three, "Experiment," discusses computer technology and whether it helps or hinders, in Jacques Ellul's phrase, "the search for justice before God." The collection of exemplars and those whose work is explored include W. H. Auden, Rebecca West, Albert Camus, and Iris Murdoch. Jacobs concludes the introduction to Shaming the Devil thus: "If what I write . . . in this book moves us an inch or so closer to general truthfulness, and thereby towards the justice of the Lord, my work will have been amply rewarded. And if it brings a discomfited blush, even for an instant, to the face of Old Slewfoot, that would be nice too." [Posted December 2004, ALG]
Just in time for Thanksgiving (or for Christmas giving), Richard Wilbur's Collected Poems 1943-2004 has been published by Harcourt. Thanksgiving is an apt moment, since Wilbur's poetry consistently bears witness to the good gifts in Creation. In a review essay in The New Yorker (November 22, 2004), Adam Kirsch writes of Wilbur's praise of mundane joys, and writes with a bit of jaded suspicion (the article is entitled "Get Happy," with a note of disapproval; Kirsch suggests, without denying Wilbur's powerful poetic gifts, that "Wilbur's essentially hopeful temperament leaves him ill-equipped for certain kinds of moral inquiry"). Kirsch also quotes from a 1977 Paris Review essay with Wilbur: "To put it simply, I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy, that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that is my attitude." Thanksgiving, indeed. I am reminded of the title of Josef Pieper's book, In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity, in which Pieper argues that the essence of the spirit of celebration is that of saying "Yes" to God's unnecessary gift of creation. Professor Roger Lundin quotes Wilbur's celebratory poetry (particularly "Love Call Us to the Things of This World") in the article "Postmodern Gnostics." [Posted November 2004, KAM]