Audition (Further reading)
a podcast from MARS HILL AUDIO


Further reading
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January 2021
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Liberalism and limits On his blog, Patrick Deneen (author of the 2005 book Democratic Faith) identifies himself as a political theorist. "Theory" comes from a Greek verb meaning "to see." The English word "theater," denoting a place where scenes from human life are enacted to be seen (and to promote greater vision about life), comes from the same root. As Deneen himself explained in a 2002 essay on the nature of patriotism, the word "theory" came over time to designate a particular kind of seeing in the Greek world. "Certain designated city officials—theoroi—were charged with the task of visiting other cities, to 'see' events such as religious or theatrical or athletic festivals, and to return to their home city, where they would then give an account of what they had seen. To 'theorize' was to take part in a sacred journey, an encounter with the 'other' in which the theorist would attempt to comprehend, assess, compare, and then, in [the] idiom of his own city, explain what had been seen to his fellow citizens." Theorists in the best tradition are people who enable us to become "other-wise," encouraging us to realize that the way we live life isn't the only way it could be lived, and may not be the best way we could live.
In the past few weeks, Deneen's posts have placed the Wall Street meltdown in a larger cultural perspective that is absent from most media diagnoses and from the comments of politicians, whose handlers and PR experts forbid them from ever saying anything critical of the dominant trends of our cultural moment. . . .

Read more from Ken Myers about Patrick Deneen's analysis on the MARS HILL AUDIO website. Subscribers to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal will have heard our interview with Patrick Deneen on volume 91. If you missed that interview, you may hear a portion of it here.

Category:Further reading -- posted at: 5:31pm EST

Camille Paglia: Only Religion Can Save the Arts Since the publication of the book that made her a celebrity intelllectual, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), Camille Paglia has been focusing attention on connections within the fabric of Western culture that are often ignored or denied. This has earned her a bundle of suspicion from across the political and ideological spectrum. So, for example, when she writes that "the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion," she will no doubt frighten leaders in the arts while flummoxing many American religious leaders, who can't imagine why we ought to bother reviving the fine arts.

Paglia's assertion launched an article in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of the journal Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics (published at Boston University). The bulk of the article is a whirlwind survey of the history of the contentious if sometimes fertile relationship between religion (mostly Christianity) and the arts in America since the Puritans, with sections on literature, the visual arts, and music. Noting that the art world and the Church world virtually ignored each other for most of the twentieth century, she then discusses the "culture wars" episodes of conflict in the 1980s and 90s (the Mapplethorpe controversy, etc.), most of which were about morality, not art or religion. . . .

Read more about this article on the MARS HILL AUDIO website.

Category:Further reading -- posted at: 4:03pm EST

Rieff Revisited Many of our listeners to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal were intrigued about the features on volume 82 about Philip Rieff. Anyone interested in knowing more about Rieff before committing to the diffficult task of reading him will be assisted by a pithy summary of Rieff's ideas written by critic George Scialabba, which appeared in a recent issue of the Boston Review.

The occasion for Scialabba's article is the posthumous book by Rieff called Charisma: The Gift of Grace and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us. Rieff draws on (and disputes) Max Weber's idea of charisma, which was in Weber's formulation a form of authority. Rieff insists that there can be no charisma in Weber's sense apart from some sense of sacred order; "no charisma without creed" is how Rieff summarizes his view.

Philip Rieff always maintained that the point of culture was to provide authority, to set limits against which individuals could come to understand the world and their place in it. But the crisis of modernity is specifically the loss of the plausibility of any authority. . . .

Read all of this brief essay by MARS HILL AUDIO host and producer Ken Myers.

Category:Further reading -- posted at: 3:32pm EST

Back in December, we alerted our listeners to the arrival of Children of Men in theaters, and provided listeners to our podcast some archival interviews with Ralph Wood and Alan Jacobs about the P. D. James novel on which the film was based (and about Baroness Phyllis more generally). We also produced an Audio Reprint of a Ralph Wood article about P. D. James's writing.

When it opened, the movie turned out to be a severe departure from the novel, abandoning James's thematic concerns altogether. Now that the DVD is out, Christopher Orr has a helpful review in The New Republic, summarizing how Children of Men "was simultaneously one of last year's best movies (better, I think, than any off those nominated for Best Picture) and one of its larger disappointments." Director Alfonso Cuaron has made a visually gripping film without "a composing idea to undergird the plot." Orr's review reminds us why really good stories are always more than just good stories.

Category:Further reading -- posted at: 3:07pm EST