MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 4

Guests on Volume 4: Alan Jacobs, on The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, and why sentimentalism in life and in art is a moral problem; Alzina Stone Dale, on unknown fiction by Dorothy Sayers, and how she was a certain kind of feminist; Ken Myers, on composer John Tavener, and on religious symbolism in high fashion; Paul McHugh, on how psychiatrists allow themselves to be swept up by the Zeitgeist; Herbert Schlossberg, on renewal in the churches and in society; and John Hodges, on Leonard Bernstein's view of religion and music.

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Part 1

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    Alan Jacobs on The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, and why sentimentalism in life and in art is a moral problem

    The Bridges of Madison County (Warner Books, 1992)

    Literary critic Alan Jacobs reviews Robert James Waller's The Bridges of Madison County. This rendition of Erich Segal's Love Story is predicated on the assumption that one should not think, only feel. Such excessive sentimentality encourages the reader to suspend judgment and reflection in order to indulge deliberately in emotion for its own sake. Jacobs contends that reflection reinforces and strengthens true emotions while exposing those feelings that are shallow and disingenuous. Sentimentalists such as Waller try to avoid this truth by keeping people from asking questions and by calling those who do insist on reflection "cynics." Jacobs counters that Waller's shameless manipulation of his readers' emotions is the ultimate act of cynicism.

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    Alzina Stone Dale on unknown fiction by Dorothy Sayers, and how she was a certain kind of feminist

    Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration (Walker and Company, 1993)

    Dorothy L. Sayers wrote mystery novels, Christian apologetics, dramatic works, radio dramas, and thousands of letters. This versatile English writer also had an accomplished career in advertising and produced a translation of Dante. Alzina Stone Dale, author of a biography of Sayers and editor of the anthology Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration, says Sayers was a "theological feminist" who grounded her ideas about men, women, and equality in Christianity. The fact that Christ treated women as human beings made it possible for women to achieve equality in Western culture. Sayers' view of vocation was shaped and informed by Christian notions of calling.

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    Paul McHugh on how psychiatrists allow themselves to be swept up by the Zeitgeist

    Paul McHugh's 2008 book is Try To Remember: Psychiatry's Clash over Meaning, Memory, and Mind

    Dr. Paul McHugh, director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is concerned about the relationship between psychiatry and popular opinion. In an American Scholar article entitled "Psychiatric Misadventures," McHugh cautioned the public not to uncritically allow psychiatric opinions to dictate social policy. He explained that psychiatric diagnoses are most often based upon the subjective weighing of probabilities, rather than on objective fact. McHugh is particularly wary about multiple personality disorder, which attributes mental illness to repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. He has found little evidence to substantiate this diagnosis and believes that many of the supposedly forgotten memories may be fabricated with the help of psychiatrists who are part of a culture obsessed with victimization.

Part 2

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    Ken Myers on composer John Tavener, and on religious symbolism in high fashion

    John Taverner (1490-1545)

    Ken Myers introduces the work of three contemporary composers whose religious convictions profoundly influence their work. Henryk Gorecki, Arvo Pärt, and John Taverner challenge the secularism and rationalism that have dominated modern art and music. While these composers work to recapture a sense of the sacred in art, the fashion industry exploits religious symbols. A New York Times article reported that fashion designers draw inspiration from traditional religious garb for varying, and often disturbing, reasons.

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    Herbert Schlossberg on renewal in the churches and in society

    Dr. Schlossberg's book on the Victorians was published in 2000 by Ohio State University Press and was entitled The Silent Revolution and the Making of Victorian England.

    Herbert Schlossberg, author of Idols for Destruction, is at work on a study examining how the renewal in the Anglican Church at the dawn of the nineteenth century spread throughout English culture and society, ushering in what some have called the "Victorian Era." Schlossberg tries to avoid the term "Victorian" because it now carries negative connotations. Certain critics have applied the labels "Puritan," "Medieval," and "Victorian" as pejoratives which suggest backwardness. All three of these descriptors, Schlossberg points out, refer to distinctively Christian societies.

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    John Hodges on Leonard Bernstein's view of religion and music

    Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

    Music professor John Hodges surveys the work of celebrated American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Unlike many of his colleagues, Bernstein believed that tonality could never be exhausted. Hodges, who studied with Bernstein, describes Bernstein as a restless soul who longed for spiritual peace. He searched for satisfaction in composing and conducting but admitted that neither enterprise filled the void. While he does raise religious questions in several compositions, Bernstein never penetrated surface issues.