"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, March 30, 2018

Radical Sacrifice

On this Great and Holy Friday, as we behold the One who hung the heavens hanging on the cross in a sacrifice that ends all sacrifice, we have a new book by Terry Eagleton just released: Radical Sacrifice (Yale UP, 2018), 216pp. I've yet to read a boring book by Eagleton, and this sounds very worthwhile.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The modern conception of sacrifice is at once cast as a victory of self-discipline over desire and condescended to as destructive and archaic abnegation. But even in the Old Testament, the dual natures of sacrifice, embodying both ritual slaughter and moral rectitude, were at odds. In this analysis, Terry Eagleton makes a compelling argument that the idea of sacrifice has long been misunderstood.
Pursuing the complex lineage of sacrifice in a lyrical discourse, Eagleton focuses on the Old and New Testaments, offering a virtuosic analysis of the crucifixion, while drawing together a host of philosophers, theologians, and texts—from Hegel, Nietzsche, and Derrida to the Aeneid and The Wings of the Dove. Brilliant meditations on death and eros, Shakespeare and St. Paul, irony and hybridity explore the meaning of sacrifice in modernity, casting off misperceptions of barbarity to reconnect the radical idea to politics and revolution.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

12 Rules for How to Be a Sinner?

What a curious stroke of timing that two books showed up in my mailbox yesterday. I'm half tempted to read them together and write about them together on here, if only because they will nicely contrast with each other in some rather stark ways--or so my initial perusal of them would suggest. Both clearly purport to be practical books offering advice from ancient traditions to help the reader overcome spiritual, emotional, and psychological struggles.

But then I know the Orthodox scholar Peter Bouteneff to be too fine a gentleman to deserve to have his new book, How to be a Sinner (SVS Press, 2018), 215pp. subject to a reading alongside the infamous Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House Canada, 2018), xxxiv+409pp.

About the former book the publisher tells us the following:
We call ourselves sinners in much of our church life. Yet the sinner identity when done right brings peace of mind, a clear conscience, and love for others. Addressing topics like guilt, shame, and self-care, this compassionate guide will help you reflect on your life in surrender to God s mercy. Written by an internationally recognized professor of Orthodox theology, this book will speak to you wherever you find yourself.

And about Peterson's book, we are told this:
What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.
Humorous, surprising and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticize too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street.
What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility, distilling the world's wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. 12 Rules for Life shatters the modern commonplaces of science, faith and human nature, while transforming and ennobling the mind and spirit of its readers.
In any event, I will see if Peter, whom I have known for some time, will do an interview about his new book.

And I will certainly be writing, on here and perhaps elsewhere, about the Peterson juggernaut. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Eastern Orthodox Divorce and Remarriage

It was a good four years ago now, perhaps longer, that I was first asked by a Catholic publisher for my thoughts on the debate over marriage, divorce, and re-marriage that was then heating up in the Catholic Church. Asked to recommend reliable authors who treated these topics in an Orthodox context, I came up with a short list of names of those who had treated certain aspects in the past, but was aware of just how much work yet needed to be done, and how easily it could be done badly.

What was then lacking, and has since been remedied, is a wide-ranging, historically comprehensive, and scholarly judicious study of these endlessly messy and complicated matters. Such a study has now emerged in very impressive form, and based on my read of it, it promises to be an enormously helpful book, not least for its clarity, careful sifting of sources, and vast bibliography (running more than 60 pages!), inter alia. In the coming weeks I hope to run an interview with Kevin Schembri, author of Oikonomia, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition (Valore Italiano SRL, 2017), 336pp.

About this book and its author the publisher tells us the following:
Over the last fifty years, the Eastern Orthodox position on oikonomia, divorce and remarriage was the subject of numerous studies. This volume builds on this research and attempts to offer a comprehensive systematic presentation of these topics. By doing so, it adds to the already rich tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and presents the Western Churches with a valuable resource in their pursuit of ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox East, in their dealing with the ever-growing reality of mixed marriages, and in their ministry to the divorced and remarried members of their faithful.
Kevin Schembri is a lecturer in canon law at the University of Malta. He holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the same university and a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He is a Catholic priest and serves as promoter of justice and defender of the bond for the Archdiocese of Malta.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fagerberg on Schememann

David Fagerberg, of whose books (discussed here) I am very fond, having often assigned them to students over the years, e-mailed me recently to say he has a new book out. This will be of wide interest not only to those who find Fagerberg edifying and interesting, but also to those many who, nearly 35 years after his death, still find much richness and new life in the works of the late Alexander Schmemann: Liturgy Outside Liturgy (Chora Books, 2018), 220pp.

I have asked David for an interview about the book, and he has kindly consented to that. We hope to run it sometime in Paschaltide.

About this book the publisher tells us:
"Does liturgy only matter to members of the Jesus Club when they get together to kill a Sunday morning? Is liturgy basically nothing more than temple etiquette, inessential to the mundane world? Should liturgy matter outside the Church?" This is an important question that David W. Fagerberg, Theology Professor at Notre Dame University, asks himself and us. And to answer this question, he is presenting the thought of Fr. Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983), who was a leading theologian in the Orthodox Church in America and one of the foremost thinker in liturgical theology.
The material is based on careful scholarship, but presented in such a way that the common reader will also benefit from the many powerful insights that can be found in it.  Schmemann made powerful statements to make readers think seriously. For example, about the world he says, “We seem to forget that in the New Testament and in the whole Christian tradition the ‘world’ is the object of two apparently contradicting attitudes: an emphatic acceptance, a yes, but also an equally emphatic rejection, a no.”
And about the relationship of theology and the Church he writes, “[Theology] today constitutes within the Church a self-centered world, virtually isolated from the Church’s life. It lives in itself and by itself in tranquil academic quarters, well defended against profane intrusions and curiosities by a highly technical language." Against the dangers of a liturgy that is auto-referential, Fagerberg observes that “Liturgical reform should not, therefore, be self-serving; liturgical reform is a matter of empowering the Church’s leitourgia, which is the work of a few on behalf of the many.” The liturgical cult does not exist for itself, but for the sake of the world, for the sake of understanding and transforming the world.” This book is not only for academic theologians, but also for all those who love the liturgy and are willing to be challenged with a fresh perspective on this fundamental topic for our Christian life.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Georgian and South-European Nostalgia and the Politics of Memory

This fascinating article, about varying memories, many nostalgic and romanticized, of Joseph Stalin in his native Georgia, confirms what I have been hearing from scholars at conferences for several years now based on various research trips to several parts of the former Soviet Union.

Two forthcoming books, both published by Palgrave Macmillan, take us further into the fascinating field of political memory and nostalgia in that part of the world:

Catherine Raudvere, Nostalgia, Loss and Creativity in South-East Europe: Political and Cultural Representations of the Past  (PM, 2018), 238pp.

About this book we are told:
Where nostalgia was once dismissed a wistful dream of a never-never land, the academic focus has shifted to how pieces of the past are assembled as the elements in alternative political thinking as well as in artistic expression. The creative use of the past points to the complexities of the conceptualization of nostalgia, while entering areas where the humanities meet the art world and commerce. This collection of essays shows how this bond is politically and socially visible on different levels, from states to local communities, along with creative developments in art, literature and religious practice. Bringing together scholars from a range of disciplines, the book offers analyses from diverse theoretical perspectives, united by an interest in the political and cultural representations of the past in South-East Europe from a long-term perspective. By emphasising how the relationship between loss and creative inspiration are intertwined in cultural production and history writing, these essays cover themes across South-East Europe and provide an insight into how specific agents – intellectuals, politicians, artists – have represented the past and have looked towards the future.
The second is a more general and methodological study: Memory Politics, Identity and Conflict: Historical Memory as a Variable by Zheng Wang (PM, 2018).

About this book we are told:
This book focuses on the methodology of research on historical memory and contributes to theoretical discussions concerning the use of historical memory as a variable to explain political action and social movement. The chapters of the book conceptualize the relationship between historical memory and national identity formation, perceptions, and policy-making. The author particularly analyses how contested memory and the related social discourse can lead to nationalism and international conflict. Based on theories and research from multiple fields of studies, this book proposes a series of analytic frameworks for the purpose of conceptualizing the functions of historical memory. These analytic frameworks can help categorize, measure, and subsequently demonstrate the effects of historical memory. This book also discusses how to use public opinion polls, textbooks, important texts and documents, monuments and memory sites for conducting research to examine the functions of historical memory.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Bogoroditsa in Russia

I am both glad and relieved to see that Northern Illinois University Press continues to publish in the areas of Russian Orthodox history and culture. They were under threat of closure just a couple of years ago as the state of Illinois was going through budgetary difficulties and cuts were threatened to its entire school and university systems. But NIUP, which has had the fullest list devoted to Russian history, including Russian Orthodox history, of any academic press in the anglophone world, seems to have escaped from the threat. Long may it continue its important work.

Set for release next month is a new book by two prominent scholars in the field: Framing Mary: The Mother of God in Modern, Revolutionary, and Post-Soviet Russian Culture, eds. Amy Singleton and Vera Shevzov (Northern Illinois University Press, 2018), 328pp.

About this collection the publisher tells us the following:
Despite the continued fascination with the Virgin Mary in modern and contemporary times, very little of the resulting scholarship on this topic extends to Russia. Russia’s Mary, however, who is virtually unknown in the West, has long played a formative role in Russian society and culture. Framing Mary introduces readers to the cultural life of Mary from the seventeenth century to the post-Soviet era. It examines a broad spectrum of engagements among a variety of people—pilgrims and poets, clergy and laity, politicians and political activists—and the woman they knew as the Bogoroditsa.
In this collection of well-integrated and illuminating essays, leading scholars of imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet Russia trace Mary’s irrepressible pull and inexhaustible promise from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Focusing in particular on the ways in which both visual and narrative images of Mary frame perceptions of Russian and Soviet space and inform discourse about women and motherhood, these essays explore Mary’s rich and complex role in Russia’s religion, philosophy, history, politics, literature, and art. Framing Mary will appeal to Russian studies scholars, historians, and general readers interested in religion and Russian culture.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Darwin's Worms and Freud's Death Drive

I have often commented on here over the past few years about the many books of the English literary scholar and psycho-analyst Adam Phillips. Having finished another, Darwin's Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories, herewith a few thoughts.

This is a short book, and is in essence two separate essays, the first on Darwin, the second on Freud, and they are only loosely stitched together. Phillips suggests that what interests both men is a fascination with natural history and an archaeological approach to the past. Moreover, both were skeptical of the idea of the redemption of humankind, and believed that any major changes were going to be very limited, both individually and politically.

The essay on Freud is useful in reminding us of several things Phillips has addressed in some of his other books, including his excellent "biography" of Freud I discussed here: the tendency of Freudian thought to "undo" itself by turning its awareness of our propensity for self-deception on itself; the treachery, therefore, and unreliability of all biographers; and the important place of the death drive, discussed most fully, of course, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

That drive, or instinct as some translators put it, came to Freud relatively late (1920) when other attempts to understand human beings proved limited if not futile. The theory of the death drive, often regarded as Freud's most speculative and controversial claim, arouse out of a need, Phillips says, "to tell more persuasive, more convincing life stories: stories about how people actively, if unwittingly, undo their lives; and how this is a source of satisfaction to them" (78). This theory does not posit that people are straightforwardly suicidal or anything like that; if often does not involve literal death, but rather many other ways of undermining, sometimes fatally, relationships, jobs, fortunes and prospects in ways that make no sense at least consciously or rationally. But such self-destruction does make sense in other ways which the death drive helps to explicate, not least that we seek relief from our desiring, making the death drive "the object of desire that finally releases us from desire," as Phillips concludes.

The death drive thus showed Freud something he had struggled with for a long time: why desires are not always for what seem to be self-evident goods--family, health, prosperity--but are often based on deception and destruction. For Freud, says Phillips, human beings are "not truth-seeking animals in any simple sense." Thus, while Christians and others may believe that "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free," it is by no means straightforward that people always want that truth, much less freedom--a point Erich Fromm powerfully illustrated in his landmark best-seller, Escape from Freedom.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Problems of Arabic Historiography of Conquest

Every group, nation, state, culture, or even church or religious group tends to write the history of its founding and of its past with a certain eye on the present and another on the future. As I have often quoted the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, "memories always have a certain future in mind." And very often, too, in the writing of that history those memories are rarely displayed, so far as can be known, in all their messiness. Rather, they are often tidied up into carefully selected narratives of "chosen trauma" and "chosen glory," to use Vamik Volkan's very useful concepts.

All of that is true in spades for the historiography of the rise of Islam, the problems with and in which are notorious and have long bedeviled scholars. Released in December in a paperback version, Boaz Shoshan, The Arabic Historical Tradition and the Early Islamic Conquests: Folklore, Tribal Lore, Holy War (2016, Routledge) reminds us anew of those problems and takes a fresh and necessary look at them.

As the publisher tells us about this book:
The early Arab conquests pose a considerable challenge to modern-day historians. The earliest historical written tradition emerges only after the second half of the eighth century- over one hundred years removed from the events it contends to describe, and was undoubtedly influenced by the motives and interpretations of its authors. Indeed, when speaking or writing about the past, fact was not the only, nor even the prime, concern of Muslims of old.
The Arabic Historic Tradition and the Early Islamic Conquests presents a thorough examination of Arabic narratives on the early Islamic conquests. It uncovers the influence of contemporary ideology, examining recurring fictive motifs and evaluating the reasons behind their use. Folklore and tribal traditions are evident throughout the narratives, which aimed to promote individual, tribal and regional fame through describing military prowess in the battles for the spread of Islam. Common tropes are encountered across the materials, which all serve a central theme; the moral superiority of the Muslims, which destined them to victory in God’s plan.
Offering a key to the state of mind and agenda of early Muslim writers, this critical reading of Arabic texts would be of great interest to students and scholars of early Arabic History and Literature, as well as a general resource for Middle Eastern History.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pre-Historic Iconoclasms

One of the things that recent research into iconoclasm, broadly understood, has been revealing is the fact that images have power, and are feared and subject to destruction for that very reason. This is by no means a phenomenon limited to Christian images in the East-Roman Empire in the seventh to ninth centuries. Iconoclasm both antedates its Byzantine outbreaks, and has long surpassed them, as we have seen in this country recently in debates about Confederate monuments, and as we have seen in post-Saddam Iraq, post-Soviet Ukraine, and elsewhere. It has, then, become something of a law that the outbreak of iconoclasm--that is, the destruction of images--is always politically motivated, and is always felt to be a necessary prelude to a new form of politics--something James Noyes argued several years ago in his very useful and insightful book.

Now a new book by Henry Chapman, Iconoclasm and Later Pre-History (Routledge, 2018), 246pp. comes along to demonstrate that humans were smashing images even before recorded history.

About this book we are told:
Iconoclasm, or the destruction of images and other symbols, is a subject that has significant resonance today. Traditionally focusing on examples such as those from late Antiquity, Byzantium, the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution, iconoclasm implies intentioned attacks that reflect religious or political motivations. However, the evidence highlights considerable variation in intentionality, the types and levels of destruction and the targets attacked. Such variation has been highlighted in recent iconoclasm scholarship and this has resulted in new theoretical frameworks for its study.
This book presents the first analysis of iconoclasm for prehistoric periods. Through an examination of the themes of objects, the human body, monuments and landscapes, the book demonstrates how the application of the approaches developed within iconoclasm studies can enrich our understanding of earlier periods in addition to identifying specific events that may be categorised as iconoclastic.
Iconoclasm and Later Prehistory combines approaches from two distinct disciplinary perspectives. It presents a new interpretative framework for prehistorians and archaeologists, whilst also providing new case studies and significantly extending the period of interest for readers interested in iconoclasm.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Creation Ex Nihilo

Released late last year is a new collection, Creation "ex nihilo": Origins, Development, Contemporary Challenges, edited by Gary Anderson and Markus Bockmuehl (University of Notre Dame Press, 2017), 418pp. Containing chapters by the Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart, and the Melkite theologian and patristics scholar Khaled Anatolios (whom I have interviewed on here in the past), as well as other prominent scholars, this looks to be a rich collection.

About this book the publisher tells us
The phrase "creation ex nihilo" refers to the primarily Christian notion of God’s creation of everything from nothing. Creation ex nihilo: Origins, Development, Contemporary Challenges presents the findings of a joint research project at Oxford University and the University of Notre Dame in 2014-2015. The doctrine of creation ex nihilo has met with criticism and revisionary theories in recent years, from the worlds of science, theology, and philosophy. This volume concentrates on several key areas: the relationship of the doctrine to its purported biblical sources, how the doctrine emerged in the first several centuries of the Common Era, why the doctrine came under heavy criticism in the modern era, how some theologians have responded to the objections, and the relationship of the doctrine to claims of modern science, for example, the fundamental law of physics that matter cannot be created from nothing.
Although the Bible never expressly states that God made everything from nothing, various texts are taken to imply that the universe came into existence by divine command and was not assembled from preexisting matter or energy. The contributors to this volume approach this topic from a range of perspectives, from exposition to defense of the doctrine itself.
This is a unique and fascinating work whose aim is to present the reader with a compelling set of arguments for why the doctrine should remain central to the grammar of contemporary Christian theology. As such, the book will appeal to theologians as well as those interested in the relationship between theology and science.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Come, Let Us Eat Together

The German Catholic bishops recently gave that reliably tiresome hysteric Rod Dreher another chance to collapse on his fainting couch in response to matters he's too lazy to understand with anything like detail, context, or intelligence. The bishops floated some proposals for the vexed question of eucharistic hospitality in mixed Catholic-Lutheran marriages. I have read reports of the German proposals and they would very strongly seem to vary in such slight ways from the Ecumenical Directory published by Rome (in 1967 and updated in 1993) as to be insignificant and unworthy of any comment, least of all by people who see the sky falling every time they wake up.

If the question of eucharistic hospitality is to be treated seriously, then a book forthcoming next month will aid in that important task. Edited by George Kalantzis and Marc Cortez, Come, Let Us Eat Together: Sacraments and Christian Unity (IVP Academic, 2018), 250pp. is a collection with some very prominent contributors.

On the Catholic side, we have chapters by Thomas Weinandy and Matthew Levering, inter alia; the Protestant Matthew Milliner, a dynamic young scholar of Byzantine Christian art, also has a chapter; and then on the Orthodox side we have chapters from Bradley Nassif and Paul Gavrilyuk.

About this book the publisher tells us:
As Christians, we are called to seek the unity of the one body of Christ. But when it comes to the sacraments, the church has often been―and remains―divided. What are we to do? Can we still gather together at the same table? Based on the lectures from the 2017 Wheaton Theology Conference, this volume brings together the reflections of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox theologians, who jointly consider what it means to proclaim the unity of the body of Christ in light of the sacraments. Without avoiding or downplaying the genuine theological and sacramental differences that exist between Christian traditions, what emerges is a thoughtful consideration of what it means to live with the difficult, elusive command to be one as the Father and the Son are one.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Desire and the Darkness of God

The University of Notre Dame Press sent me their newest catalogue; but it was in reviewing the back lists that brought to my attention a book I missed when it was first published in 2015: Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God: Essays in Honor of Denys Turner, eds. Eric Bugyis and David Newheiser (UNDP, 2015), 480pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In the face of religious and cultural diversity, some doubt whether Christian faith remains possible today. Critics claim that religion is irrational and violent, and the loudest defenders of Christianity are equally strident. In response, Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God: Essays in Honor of Denys Turner explores the uncertainty essential to Christian commitment; it suggests that faith is moved by a desire for that which cannot be known.
This approach is inspired by the tradition of Christian apophatic theology, which argues that language cannot capture divine transcendence. From this perspective, contemporary debates over God’s existence represent a dead end: if God is not simply another object in the world, then faith begins not in abstract certainty but in a love that exceeds the limits of knowledge.
The essays engage classic Christian thought alongside literary and philosophical sources ranging from Pseudo-Dionysius and Dante to Karl Marx and Jacques Derrida. Building on the work of Denys Turner, they indicate that the boundary between atheism and Christian thought is productively blurry. Instead of settling the stale dispute over whether religion is rationally justified, their work suggests instead that Christian life is an ethical and political practice impassioned by a God who transcends understanding.
If you peruse the table of contents you will see a wonderful variety of essays, including those by such notable figures as Terry Eagleton in conversation with Turner over a topic both have written about: the relationship between Christianity and Marxism.

I found Turner's work in the late 90s, and since then have returned to him, not least because he's useful in debunking any efforts towards self-congratulation or self-promotion on the part of the Christian East, some of whose apologists sometimes give the impression of thinking the East has a monopoly on apophaticism in theology--in contrast, of course, to the West's apparent horrid old "rationalism" and "scholasticism." Turner is among those who handily debunk such hoary old tales.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Assumptionists as Byzantinists

Since doing some field research with a graduate student of mine back in 2013, when we visited the remnants of the Byzantine Franciscans in Sybertsville, PA and their lovely neighbors the Byzantine Carmelite sisters in Sugarloaf, PA, I have become acutely aware of how badly Eastern Catholics fail at writing our own history, including that of such unique communities as these two. The Byzantine Franciscans are but a tiny shell of what they once were though they still maintain an absolutely lovely church and campus. The Byzantine Carmelite sisters, by contrast, had a goodly number of young vocations when I was there and seem to have a fairly stable and promising future. Their chapel is stunning, and their singing very unique and beautiful.

I maintain only the fondest recollections of their dynamic and wonderful founder and mother-superior, a no-nonsense Irish Catholic from New York who "discovered" the Christian East in the 1950s and felt it was her life's work and call to help Catholics know the East, love the East, and be reconciled with the East. Hers is a fascinating history, and I strongly encouraged her to write both her own history and that of the community she founded, but she was reluctant to do so, having so many other pressing projects. 

All this is but a preface to note a new book whose publication I cheered because it helps fill in some of the many holes in Eastern Catholic historiography: L'apport des Assomptionnistes français aux études byzantines : une approche critique (Peeters, 2017), 536pp.

I studied and wrote about the activities of a few of the Assumptionists and their role in Ukraine and Russia when Peter Galadza and I were working on Unité en division : Les lettres de Lev Gillet, Un moine de l'Eglise d'Orient à Andrei Cheptytsky, 1921-1929. It was, at times, hard going trying to find out much about some of these figures. So I am, as I say, happy to see this new edited collection about which the publisher tells us the following:
Membres d'une congrégation catholique fondée en France en 1845, les Assomptionnistes n'avaient pas initialement vocation à devenir des byzantinistes. Lorsqu'à la faveur de l'installation d'une petite communauté à Constantinople en 1895, certains d'eux ont entrepris des recherches sur l'Orient orthodoxe, ils ne pensaient probablement pas faire école ni marquer la byzantinologie d'une empreinte spécifique. Pourtant leurs travaux, poursuivis durant plus d'un siècle, ont stimulé et nourri ceux de beaucoup de spécialistes. Comprendre comment ils ont abordé leur objet d'étude - l'Église byzantine -, selon quelles directions de recherche et en mettant en valeur quel type de résultats, permet de repenser aujourd'hui certaines des orientations qu'ils ont données à la discipline. Les études réunies dans cet ouvrage collectif analysent dans une perspective critique les méthodes et les choix scientifiques de ces religieux catholiques, mais aussi leurs préjugés en tant que spécialistes d'une confession qu'ils qualifiaient eux-mêmes de «dissidente», alors qu'ils étaient animés, au moins à l'origine, par une perspective prosélyte. Les contributions de ce volume entrecroisent l'histoire des intellectuels catholiques au 20e siècle et l'historiographie byzantine, afin d'éclairer ces relations entre engagement confessionnel et science, souvent fécondes, mais parfois peut-être aussi contradictoires, et afin d'esquisser un bilan de l'oeuvre scientifique des Assomptionnistes de l'Institut français d'études byzantines.
For those who do not read French, the table of contents, available here, shows that there are a handful of articles in English, including one by Daniel Galadza, author of the recent monograph I noted here.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Orthodox Perspectives on War

I had known for some time that this collection was in the works, but it was only late last week that the University of Notre Dame Press put into my hands a copy of Orthodox Christian Perspectives on War, eds. P.T. Hamalis and V.A. Karras (2018), 384pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
Many regions of the world whose histories include war and violent conflict have or once had strong ties to Orthodox Christianity. Yet policy makers, religious leaders, and scholars often neglect Orthodoxy’s resources when they reflect on the challenges of war.
Through essays written by prominent Orthodox scholars in the fields of biblical studies, church history, Byzantine studies, theology, patristics, political science, ethics, and biology, Orthodox Christian Perspectives on War presents and examines the Orthodox tradition’s nuanced and unique insights on the meaning and challenges of war with an eye toward their contemporary relevance. This volume is structured in three parts: “Confronting the Present Day Reality,” “Reengaging Orthodoxy’s Tradition,” and “Constructive Directions in Orthodox Theology and Ethics.” Each exemplifies the value of interdisciplinary reflection on “war” and the potential for the Eastern Orthodox tradition to enhance ecumenical and interfaith discussions surrounding war in both domestic and international contexts.
The contributors do not advance a single account of “the meaning of war” or a comprehensive and normative stance purporting to be “the Orthodox Christian teaching on war.” Instead, this collection presents the breadth and depth of Orthodox Christian thought in a way that engages Orthodox and non-Orthodox readers alike. In addition to offering fresh resources for all people of good will to understand, prevent, and respond faithfully to war, this book will appeal to Christian theologians who specialize in ethics, to libraries of academic institutions, and to scholars of war/peace studies, international relations, and Orthodox thought.
Contributors: Peter C. Bouteneff, George Demacopoulos, John Fotopoulos, Perry T. Hamalis, Valerie A. Karras, Alexandros K. Kyrou, Aristotle Papanikolaou, Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Nicolae Roddy, James C. Skedros, Andrew Walsh, and Gayle E. Woloschak.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Byzantine Bodily Perceptions

It seems somewhere in the 1980s Christians all over the world woke up one morning and began to theologize about the body. The trend took off in the West, with rather questionable premises and dubious results, often issuing in a lot of very cheap psychologizing by people who found the "theology of the body" a nifty trick to making money marketing bad books.

Here, as in all things, the East lags behind, but more recently we have seen an upswing in serious scholarly books devoted to the role of the body, the place of the senses, and even studies of one sense in particular--the olfactory, for example, or the auditory.

Now two more books join this increasing number. The first is set for an official release date of today: a collection, Perceptions of the Body and Sacred Space in Late Antiquity and Byzantium, edited by Jelena Bogdanovic (Routledge, 2018), 304 pages + 65 B/W illustrations. I drew attention here to another new work by Bogdanovic.

About this collection we are told:
Perceptions of the Body and Sacred Space in Late Antiquity and Byzantium seeks to reveal Christian understanding of the body and sacred space in the medieval Mediterranean. Case studies examine encounters with the holy through the perspective of the human body and sensory dimensions of sacred space, and discuss the dynamics of perception when experiencing what was constructed, represented, and understood as sacred. The comparative analysis investigates viewers’ recognitions of the sacred in specific locations or segments of space with an emphasis on the experiential and conceptual relationships between sacred spaces and human bodies. This volume thus reassesses the empowering aspects of space, time, and human agency in religious contexts. By focusing on investigations of human endeavors towards experiential and visual expressions that shape perceptions of holiness, this study ultimately aims to present a better understanding of the corporeality of sacred art and architecture. The research points to how early Christians and Byzantines teleologically viewed the divine source of the sacred in terms of its ability to bring together – but never fully dissolve – the distinctions between the human and divine realms. The revealed mechanisms of iconic perception and noetic contemplation have the potential to shape knowledge of the meanings of the sacred as well as to improve our understanding of the liminality of the profane and the sacred.
The second is also an edited collection in the prestigious Dumbarton Oaks series, and edited by Susan Ashbrook Harvey (author of one of the above-linked books on smell) and Margaret Mullett: Knowing Bodies, Passionate Souls: Sense Perceptions in Byzantium (DOP, 2017), 342pp.

About this book we are told:
How does sense perception contribute to human cognition? How did the Byzantines understand that contribution? Byzantine culture in all its domains showed deep appreciation for sensory awareness and sensory experience. The senses were reckoned as modes of knowledge―intersecting realms both human and divine, bodily and spiritual, physical and intellectual.
Scholars have attended to aspects of sight and sound in Byzantine culture, but have generally left smell, taste, and touch undervalued and understudied. Through collected essays that redress the imbalance, the contributors explore how the Byzantines viewed the senses; how they envisaged sensory interactions within their world; and how they described, narrated, and represented the senses at work. The result is a fresh charting of the Byzantine sensorium as a whole.
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