2017: Books in Review

Giorgio Vasari
Italian Humanists (Six Tuscan Poets), 1554
Oil on panel

“I am unable to satisfy my thirst for books. And I perhaps own more of them than I ought; but just as in certain other things, so does it happen with books: success in searching for them is a stimulus to greed… Books please inwardly; they speak with us, advise us and join us together with a certain living and penetrating intimacy, nor does this instill only itself into its readers, but it conveys the names and desire for others.”

(Francesco Petrarch, Letters on Familiar Matters III. 18)

Continue reading “2017: Books in Review”


The Church contra Echo Chamber

Nicolas Poussin
Echo and Narcissus, 1630
Oil on canvas

In his recently-published, and thoroughly insightful, conclusion to the Cultural Liturgies trilogy, theologian James K.A. Smith articulates a particularly-challenging (and surprising) précis for what a Christian political theology ought to be. Following the lead of Oliver O’Donovan and Peter Leithart, Smith speaks Hauerwas to Kuyperians and then Kuyper to Hauerwasians, resulting in a re-furbished and refined view of the Church qua polis, not disjunctioned from the political polis (as it is in Lutheran Two Kingdoms doctrine) nor in charge of the political polis (as it is in NAR “Kingdom Now” dominionism, and several other postmillennial variants) nor its own entirely separate political polis (as the modern Roman Catholic Church functions). These are all, Smith asserts, false leads. Continue reading “The Church contra Echo Chamber”

Spatial Reading: The Shopping Mall

Amadeo Preziosi
The Grand Bazaar, 185?
Watercolor on paper

The French phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard once mused that space has the power to affect the imagination. In this Spatial Reading series, I will be endeavoring to uncover the power of the imagination and the unconscious in familiar architectural spaces. The basic thesis underlying the posts in this series is that spaces constructed by humans are both constructed with particular purposes and values in mind (and ideologies as a result) and received with a variety of purposeful and values affects (and ideologies), and that space in general holds a powerful sway over the ways in which we form our own understanding of lived human experience.

No architectural space more thoroughly exemplifies the American ruling ideology than the shopping mall. In a culture that generally detests being told morality and values, nowhere else are moralities and values more directly dictated than in the shape and form of this space. “Freedom,” the Capitalists say, “is the preeminent human good.” And, so, Freedom is the exalted virtue communicated by the mall: you have the Freedom to pick this store to enter or that store to enter. Continue reading “Spatial Reading: The Shopping Mall”