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"There is nothing wiser than the circle," Rilke says in his Stories of God. John Dunne's new book explores the wisdom of the circle. He uses the metaphor of the circle dance, a folk dance in which the women form an inner circle, holding hands and moving clockwise; the men form an outer circle, moving counterclockwise. When the music stops the person opposite you is your partner for the next dance. Dunne interprets the circle as the great circle of life and light and love that comes from God and returns to God. Dunne emphasizes the far point on the circle, farthest away from God, and uses that to discuss the difficulties of our secular age. In the individual life, the far point is a dark night of the soul. Yet Dunne sees that far point of loneliness and darkness as a point as well, marking the return to love and light. So the theme of the book is like the words of an old Bedouin to Lawrence of Arabia, "The love is from God, and of God, and towards God." The book concludes with the words of twenty-one "Circle Songs," composed by the author.
Literature, Culture, and Ideology in Late Medieval England
In The Claims of Poverty, Kate Crassons explores a widespread ideological crisis concerning poverty that emerged in the aftermath of the plague in late medieval England. She identifies poverty as a central preoccupation in texts ranging from Piers Plowman and Wycliffite writings to The Book of Margery Kempe and the York cycle plays. Crassons shows that these and other works form a complex body of writing in which poets, dramatists, and preachers anxiously wrestled with the status of poverty as a force that is at once a sacred imitation of Christ and a social stigma; a voluntary form of life and an unwelcome hardship; an economic reality and a spiritual disposition. Crassons argues that literary texts significantly influenced the cultural conversation about poverty, deepening our understanding of its urgency as a social, economic, and religious issue. These texts not only record debates about the nature of poverty as a form of either vice or virtue, but explore epistemological and ethical aspects of the debates. When faced with a claim of poverty, people effectively become readers interpreting the signs of need in the body and speech of their fellow human beings. The literary and dramatic texts of late medieval England embodied the complexity of such interaction with particular acuteness, revealing the ethical stakes of interpretation as an act with direct material consequences. As The Claims of Poverty demonstrates, medieval literature shaped perceptions about who is defined as "poor," and in so doing it emerged as a powerful cultural force that promoted competing models of community, sanctity, and justice.
Philosophy in the Narratives of Maurice Blanchot
Maurice Blanchot is perhaps best known as a major French intellectual of the twentieth century: the man who countered Sartre’s views on literature, who affirmed the work of Sade and Lautréamont, who gave eloquent voice to the generation of ’68, and whose philosophical and literary work influenced the writing of, among others, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Foucault. He is also regarded as one of the most acute narrative writers in France since Marcel Proust. In Clandestine Encounters, Kevin Hart has gathered together major literary critics in Britain, France, and the United States to engage with Blanchot’s immense, fascinating, and difficult body of creative work. Hart’s substantial introduction usefully places Blanchot as a significant contributor to the tradition of the French philosophical novel, beginning with Voltaire’s Candide in 1759, and best known through the works of Sartre. Clandestine Encounters considers a selection of Blanchot’s narrative writings over the course of almost sixty years, from stories written in the mid-1930s to L’instant de ma mort (1994). Collectively, the contributors’ close readings of Blanchot’s novels, récits, and stories illuminate the close relationship between philosophy and narrative in his work while underscoring the variety and complexity of these narratives.
Essays on Race, Family, and History
In 1991, acclaimed poet Kenneth A. McClane published Walls: Essays, 1985-1990, a volume of essays dealing with life in Harlem, the death of his alcoholic brother, and the complexities of being black and middle-class in America. Now, in Color: Essays on Race, Family, and History, McClane contributes further to his self-described “autobiographical sojourn” with a second collection of interconnected essays. In McClane’s words, “All concern race, although they, like the human spirit, wildly sweep and yaw.” A timely installment in our national narrative, Color is a chronicle of the black middle class, a group rarely written about with sensitivity and charity. In evocative, trenchant, and poetic prose, McClane employs the art of the memoirist to explore the political and the personal. He details the poignant narrative of racial progress as witnessed by his family during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. We learn of his parents’ difficult upbringing in Boston, where they confronted much racism; of the struggles they and McClane encountered as they became the first blacks to enter previously all-white institutions, including the oldest independent school in the United States; and of the part his parents played in the civil rights movement, working with Dr. King and others. The book ends with a tender account of his parents in the throes of Alzheimer’s disease, which claimed both their lives.
Perspectives on the Ethics of K. E. Logstrup
The Danish philosopher K. E. Løgstrup is best known in the Anglo-American world for his original work in ethics, primarily in The Ethical Demand (original Danish edition, 1956). Løgstrup continued to write extensively on issues in ethics and phenomenology throughout his life, and extracts from some of his later writings are now also available in translation in Beyond the Ethical Demand. In Concern for the Other: The Ethics of K. E. Løgstrup, eleven scholars examine the structure, intention, and originality of Løgstrup's ethics as a whole. This collection of essays is a companion to Beyond the Ethical Demand, as well as to The Ethical Demand. The essays examine Løgstrup’s crucial concept of the “sovereign expressions of life”; his view of moral principles as a substitute for, or inferior form of, ethics; his relationships to other philosophers, including the twentieth-century British moral philosophers; and the role of his Lutheran background in his ethics. Løgstrup also firmly advanced the controversial thesis, examined by several essays in this volume, that the demand for “other-concern” central to his ethics does not depend on religious faith.
Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian's Vocation
At the end of his landmark 1994 book, The Soul of the American University, historian George Marsden asserted that religious faith does indeed have a place in today’s academia. Marsden’s contention sparked a heated debate on the role of religious faith and intellectual scholarship in academic journals and in the mainstream media. The contributors to Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation expand the discussion about religion’s role in education and culture and examine what the relationship between faith and learning means for the academy today. The contributors to Confessing History ask how the vocation of historian affects those who are also followers of Christ. What implications do Christian faith and practice have for living out one’s calling as an historian? And to what extent does one’s calling as a Christian disciple speak to the nature, quality, or goals of one’s work as scholar, teacher, adviser, writer, community member, or social commentator? Written from several different theological and professional points of view, the essays collected in this volume explore the vocation of the historian and its place in both the personal and professional lives of Christian disciples.
Mapping Peru in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Landscape is never static, but changes continuously when seen in relation to human occupation, movement, labor, and discourse. Contested Territory explores the ways in which Peru’s early colonial landscapes were experienced and portrayed, especially by the Spanish conquerors but also by their conquered subjects. It focuses on the role played by indigenous groups in shaping the Spanish experiences of landscapes, the diverse geographical images of Peru and ways in which these were constructed and contested, and what this can tell us about the nature of colonial relations in post-conquest Peru. This exceptional study, which draws from archival records and sources such as cartographies, offers a richly nuanced view of the complexity of colonial relations. It will be read with appreciation by those interested in Spanish history, geography, and colonialism.
Maimonides and the Outsider
James Diamond's new book consists of a series of studies addressing Moses Maimonides' (1138–1204) appropriation of marginal figures—lepers, converts, heretics, and others—normally considered on the fringes of society and religion. Each chapter focuses on a type or character that, in Maimonides' hands, becomes a metaphor for a larger, more substantive theological and philosophical issue. Diamond offers a close reading of key texts, such as the Guide of the Perplexed and the Mishneh Torah, demonstrating the importance of integrating Maimonides' legal and philosophical writings. Converts, Heretics, and Lepers fills an important void in Jewish studies by focusing on matters of exegesis and hermeneutics as well as philosophical concerns. Diamond's alternative reading of central topics in Maimonides suggests that literary appreciation is a key to deciphering Maimonides’ writings in particular and Jewish exegetical texts in general.
How New Leaders Respond to Previous Rights Abuses
In The Costs of Justice, Brian K. Grodsky provides qualitative analyses of how transitional justice processes have evolved in diverse ways in postcommunist Poland, Croatia, Serbia, and Uzbekistan, by examining the decision-making processes and goals of those actors who contributed to key transitional justice policy decisions. Grodsky draws on extensive interviews with key political figures, human rights leaders, and representatives of various international, state, and nongovernmental bodies, as well as detailed analysis of international and local news reports, to offer a systematic and qualitatively compelling account of transitional justice from the perspective of activists who, at the end of a previous regime, were suddenly transformed from downtrodden victim to empowered judge. Grodsky challenges the argument that transitional justice in post-repressive states is largely a function of the relative power of new versus old elites. He maintains that a new regime’s transitional justice policy is closely linked to its capacity to provide goods and services expected by constituents, not to political power struggles. In introducing this goods variable, so common to broad political analysis but largely overlooked in the transitional justice debate, Grodsky argues that we must revise our understanding of transitional justice. It is not an exceptional issue; it is but one of many political decisions faced by leaders in a transition state.
The Politics of Life and Limb
Courage: The Politics of Life and Limb is a compelling and highly original study of the paradox of courage. Richard Avramenko contends that courage is not simply one virtue among many; rather, it is the primary means for humans to raise themselves out of their individualistic, isolated, and materialistic existence. As such, courage is an absolute and permanent good for collective human life. Specifically, Avramenko argues that when we risk "life and limb" for one another we reveal a fundamental care that binds our community together. Paradoxically, the same courage that brings humans together also drives us apart because courage is traditionally understood as manly, by definition, exclusionary, inegalitarian, and violent.