Category Books

Mark Noll and the potential contributions of Christian scholarship

Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), a book that scandalized the evangelical mind by noting that it wasn’t much in evidence (Noll then scandalized some further when he announced in 2006 that he was leaving Wheaton College after 27 years on the faculty for Notre Dame), was in a sense sequeled in 2011 […]

The importance of watching

I’m not quite finished with it yet, but Paul Woodruff’s recent The Necessity of Theatre: The Art of Watching and Being Watched (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2008) makes a compelling case for treating theatre as central to the human experience.  Woodruff’s point is not to reiterate the now-familiar claim that theatrical drama importantly mirrors human […]

The death of the literary critic

I’ve just finished Rónán McDonald’s little book, The Death of the Critic (London: Continuum, 2007), the broad point of which is to decry the diminution of the literary critical role in society that was formerly occupied by well trained readers like Calvin Trilling, Matthew Arnold, F.R. Leavis, and writers who also produced criticism, like T.S. […]

Christianity: Undergoing a Great Emergence?

Phyllis Tickle is the founding editor of the religion section of Publisher’s Weekly, a position created when the market for spiritual books exploded in the late 1980’s (she started in the early 1990’s).  From that vantage point, and given her own theological predispositions, she has had a unique perspective on the unfolding debates within Christendom […]

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s complex legacy

The death Sunday in Russia of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the 1970 Nobel Prize winner, and the reaction it has apparently elicited there so far signals the inevitable response to a figure whose life’s work was to bear close witness to an age that is now long gone.  Rightly revered as a man of letters, Solzhenitsyn seems […]

The visual iconic

A long-standing argument has been conducted by scholars of public argumentation over the specific power exerted in public life by visual images.  No one denies that the brain’s responses are viscerally shaped by visual stimuli in ways that vary from and sometimes exceed the role of rational thinking or emotional reaction.  But there has been […]

Loving the library

A great library serves many functions:  research laboratory of the humanities, archival database of human accomplishment, repository of a culture’s stories.  For me the library is also a place of escape, a sacred space where quiet enables clear thinking, and sometimes an overwhelming place.  This last is a little hard to explain, except by noting […]

Common wealth

Jeffrey Sachs’ book, Common Wealth:  Economics for a Crowded Planet (New York: Penguin, 2008), lays out the case for strategies that might both temper the inequities of globalization and also generate more wealth for everyone.  The urgency of the argument relies on the fact that (a) more than a billion people on the planet live […]

Reading’s future

I’m staying in a lovely Savannah, Georgia hotel this weekend – here for the Southern Speech Communication Association annual meeting – where the table lamp in my room was constructed by drilling the main support through a stack of books.  As a book addict (one of the few addictions enjoying social approval), the sight caught […]

Suicide and the dissertation

In 1910, on October 16, Carlo Michelstaedter mailed his just-completed dissertation on rhetoric and persuasion to his adviser at the University of Florence.  The next day he killed himself.  Michelstaedter was only 23.  The project, never defended, has circulated in something of a spectral afterlife ever since, with a translated edition published in 2004 by […]

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