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Regional Identity and Cheshire Writing, 1195-1656
Against All England examines a diverse set of poems, plays, and chronicles produced in Cheshire and its vicinity from the 1190s to the 1650s that collectively argue for the localization of British literary history. These works, including very early monastic writing emanating from St. Werburgh’s Abbey, the Chester Whitsun plays, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, seventeenth-century ceremonials, and various Stanley romances, share in the creation and revision of England’s cultural tradition, demonstrating a vested interest in the intersection of landscape, language, and politics. Barrett’s book grounds itself in Cestrian evidence in order to offer scholars a new, dynamic model of cultural topography, one that acknowledges the complex interlacing of regional and national identities within the longue durée extending from the post-Conquest period to the Restoration. Covering nearly five centuries of literary production within a single geographical location, the book challenges still dominant chronologies of literary history that emphasize cultural rupture and view the “Renaissance” as a sharp break from England’s medieval past.
A Brief Metaphysics for Today
In Aims: A Brief Metaphysics for Today, James W. Felt turns his attention to combining elements of Thomas Aquinas's metaphysics, especially its deep ontology, with Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy to arrive at a new possibility for metaphysics. In his distinctive style, Felt concisely pulls together the strands of epistemology, ontology, and teleology, synthesizing these elements into his own “process-enriched Thomism.” Aims does not simply discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each philosopher’s position, but blends the two into a cohesive argument based on principles derived from immediate experience. Felt arrives at what he calls a “Whiteheadian-type solution,” appealing to his original concept of the “essential aim” as necessary for understanding our existence in a coherent yet unique world. This concise, finely crafted discussion provides a thoroughly teleological, value-centered approach to metaphysics. Aims, an experiment in constructive metaphysics, is a thorough and insightful project in modern philosophy. It will appeal to philosophers and students of philosophy interested in enriching their knowledge of contemporary conceptions of metaphysics.
George Marsden and the State of American Religious History
On the Analogy of Being, Metaphysics, and the Act of Faith
Analogia Entis: On the Analogy of Being, Metaphysics, and the Act of Faith is an intellectually rigorous and systematic account of Thomas’s teaching regarding the analogy of being. Steven A. Long’s work stands in contradistinction to historical-doctrinal surveys and general introductions, retrieving by way of an interpretation of Aristotle and Aquinas the indispensable role that analogy of being plays for metaphysics and, consequently, for theology. In his later writings St. Thomas did not return to questions about the analogy of being that he had answered earlier in his career. This has led most historical-textual treatments of analogy in current scholarship to the mistaken conclusion that Thomas actually changed his answers to these questions. Scholars fail to see the continuity between his treatment in the Summa theologiae and his earlier De veritate. Long's study demonstrates the coherence of St. Thomas’s earlier and later analyses. It shows how Thomas’s later account in the Summa theologiae necessarily presupposes his earlier teaching.
Dante and the Poets
While the structure and themes of the Divine Comedy are defined by the narrative of a spiritual pilgrimage guided by Christian truth, Winthrop Wetherbee’s remarkable new study reveals that Dante’s engagement with the great Latin poets Vergil, Ovid, Lucan, and Statius constitutes a second, complementary narrative centered on psychological and artistic self-discovery. This fresh, illuminating approach departs from the usual treatment of classical poets in Dante criticism, which assigns them a merely allegorical function. Their true importance to Dante’s project is much greater. As Wetherbee meticulously shows, Dante’s use of the poets is grounded in an astute understanding of their historical situation and a deeply sympathetic reading of their poetry. Dante may have been motivated to correct pagan thought and imagery, but more pervasive was his desire to recreate classical style and to restore classical auctoritas to his own times. Dante’s journey in the Commedia, beginning with the pilgrim’s assumption of a tragic view of the human condition, progresses with the great poetry of the classical past as an intrinsic component of—not just a foil to—the spiritual experience. Dante ultimately recognizes classical poetry as an essential means to his discovery of truth. A stunning contribution by one of the nation’s leading medievalists, Wetherbee’s investigation of the poem’s classicism makes possible an ethical and spiritual but non-Christian reading of Dante, one that will spur new research and become an indispensable tool for teaching the Commedia.
Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying
In this original and compelling book, Jeffrey P. Bishop, a philosopher, ethicist, and physician, argues that something has gone sadly amiss in the care of the dying by contemporary medicine and in our social and political views of death, as shaped by our scientific successes and ongoing debates about euthanasia and the “right to die”—or to live. The Anticipatory Corpse: Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying, informed by Foucault’s genealogy of medicine and power as well as by a thorough grasp of current medical practices and medical ethics, argues that a view of people as machines in motion—people as, in effect, temporarily animated corpses with interchangeable parts—has become epistemologically normative for medicine. The dead body is subtly anticipated in our practices of exercising control over the suffering person, whether through technological mastery in the intensive care unit or through the impersonal, quasi-scientific assessments of psychological and spiritual “medicine.”
David J. Leigh explores the innovative influences of the Book of Revelation and ideas of an end time on fiction of the twentieth century, and probes philosophical, political, and theological issues raised by apocalyptic writers from Walker Percy, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams to Doris Lessing, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo. Leigh tackles head on a fundamental question about Christian-inspired eschatology: Does it sanction, as theologically sacred or philosophically ultimate, the kind of “last battles” between good and evil that provoke human beings to demonize and destroy the other? Against the backdrop of this question, Leigh examines twenty modern and postmodern apocalyptic novels, juxtaposing them in ways that expose a new understanding of each. The novels are clustered for analysis in chapters that follow seven basic eschatological patterns—the last days imagined as an ultimate journey, a cosmic battle, a transformed self, an ultimate challenge, the organic union of human and divine, the new heaven and new earth, and the ultimate way of religious pluralism. For religious novelists, these patterns point toward spiritual possibilities in the final days of human life or of the universe. For more political novelists—Ralph Ellison, Russell Hoban, and Salman Rushdie among them—the patterns are used to critique political or social movements of self-destruction. Beyond the twenty novels closely analyzed, Leigh makes pertinent reference to many more as well as to reflections from theologians Jürgen Moltmann, Zachary Hayes, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Paul Ricoeur. Both a guidebook and a critical assessment, Leigh’s work brings theological concepts to bear on end-of-the-world fiction in an admirably clear and accessible manner.
Metaphysical Foundations, Moral Theory, and Theological Context
The purpose of Aquinas's Ethics is to place Thomas Aquinas's moral theory in its full philosophical and theological context and to do so in a way that makes Aquinas (1224/5-1274) readily accessible to students and interested general readers, including those encountering Aquinas for the first time. Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Colleen McCluskey, and Christina Van Dyke begin by explaining Aquinas's theories of the human person and human action, since these ground his moral theory. In their interpretation, Aquinas's theological commitments crucially shape his account of the human person, human capacities for action, and human flourishing. The authors develop a comprehensive picture of Aquinas's thought, which is designed to help students understand how his concept of happiness and the good life are part of a coherent, theologically-informed worldview. Many studies of Aquinas naturally focus on certain areas of his thought and tend to assume a general knowledge of the whole. Aquinas's Ethics takes the opposite approach: it intentionally links his metaphysics and anthropology to his action theory and ethics to illuminate how the moral theory is built on foundations laid elsewhere. The authors emphasize the integration of concepts of virtue, natural law, and divine grace within Aquinas's ethics, rather than treating such topics in isolation or opposition. Their approach, presented in clear and deliberately non-specialist language, reveals the coherent nature of Aquinas's account of the moral life and of what fulfills us as human beings. The result is a rich and engaging framework for further investigation of Aquinas's thought and its applications.
Poetry, Public Performance, and the Presentation of the Past
Arabic literary salons emerged in ninth-century Iraq and, by the tenth, were flourishing in Baghdad and other urban centers. In an age before broadcast media and classroom education, salons were the primary source of entertainment and escape for middle- and upper-rank members of society, serving also as a space and means for educating the young. Although salons relied on a culture of oral performance from memory, scholars of Arabic literature have focused almost exclusively on the written dimensions of the tradition. That emphasis, argues Samer Ali, has neglected the interplay of oral and written, as well as of religious and secular knowledge in salon society, and the surprising ways in which these seemingly discrete categories blurred in the lived experience of participants. Looking at the period from 500 to 1250, and using methods from European medieval studies, folklore, and cultural anthropology, Ali interprets Arabic manuscripts in order to answer fundamental questions about literary salons as a social institution. He identifies salons not only as sites for socializing and educating, but as loci for performing literature and oral history; for creating and transmitting cultural identity; and for continually reinterpreting the past. A fascinating recovery of a key element of humanistic culture, Ali’s work will encourage a recasting of our understanding of verbal art, cultural memory, and daily life in medieval Arab culture.
Essays in Honor of Philip Rousseau
Ascetic Culture honors Philip Rousseau’s pathbreaking work on early Christian asceticism in a series of essays exploring how quickly the industrious and imaginative practitioners of asceticism, from the early fourth through the mid-fifth century, adapted the Greco-Roman social, literary, and religious culture in which they had been raised. Far from rejecting the life of the urban centers of the ancient world, they refined and elaborated that life in their libraries, households, and communities. The volume begins with a discussion of Egyptian monastic reading programs and the circulation of texts, especially the hugely influential Life of Antony. A second group of essays engages the topic of disciplinary culture in ascetic spaces such as the monastery, the household, and the city. A third group focuses on the topic of imaginary landscapes and ascetic self-fashioning. Ascetic Culture concludes by surveying the scholarly study of asceticism over the last one hundred and fifty years, arguing that previous generations of scholars have regarded asceticism either as a product of the inner dynamism of early Christianity or as a distortion of its earliest aims. Together, the contributors recognize, reflect upon, and extend the themes explored in Rousseau’s work on early Christianity’s ascetic periphery—a region whose inhabitants reflect in various ways the aspirations of their religion, from the daily to the otherworldly.