24 August 2007

A high school senior thesis on spirituality in art

This excellent essay is very impressive for a high school senior:

The Spiritual in Art: Ripping Apart the Bushel by Joshua M. Rayner

Overall, great ideas and well-written. I was concerned at first about his representation of non-Christians as affected by the fall ("their fallen natures pervert their perceptiveness of the art's spirituality" and their understanding is "warped and distorted by sin"), whereas he was not painting Christians with the same brush. That's a very stark us-them demarcation, no notion of common grace or of the idea that people on their journey towards faith might have a little portion of the light he claimed only for Christians, and no recognition that Christians too are affected by sin in their perceptions of reality. However, later he redeemed himself by saying some more nuanced things: "Christians do not suddenly evince pure truth from the moment of justification" (though again he's pinpointing conversion to one moment in time, which isn't always the case) and "Christ indwells the hearts of those whom He has called, but that is not the only place in which He is to be found." Opens up the possibility of his understanding common grace, though I think in the context of that quote he was talking about revelation through Creation, not through the works of non-Christians which I believe can sometimes be surprisingly deep in their manifestation of God and Truth. We are all, after all, created in the image of God. Some of us recognize that; others don't. But we can't help imaging him in some way in our art. Knowing the call can make that more intentional for Christians, but it doesn't mean that it can't ever be there for non-Christians.

Anyway, in spite of those quibbles, Joshua's thesis is a very clear and bold articulation of the vocation of Christian artists. Well worth reading.

04 August 2007

Freud & Lewis as Mythopoeists

Here's the working introduction for a paper I'm working on. What do you think? Any ideas?

C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), though born a generation apart, are often seen as ideological virtual opponents, representatives of antithetical worldviews. Lewis even fictionalized Freud as a monster in The Pilgrim’s Regress (45-65) and put a parody of his theories in the mouth of a villain in “The Queen of Drum” (157). Yet Freud and Lewis, as authors, are in some ways surprisingly similar. Both possessed talents for translating complex, technical terms and concepts from psychology, theology, or philosophy into clear, lucid prose. Both privileged reason and employed incremental logic to substantiate their claims. Both debated with imaginary interlocutors in their writings, sometimes talking themselves into rhetorical corners. And both were brilliant mythopoeists.
Freud and Lewis created mythologies as vehicles for the communication of their particular ideas of “truth.” Sometimes the myth-making urge is repressed, as it were, in their texts: masquerading as historical or scientific fact. Sometimes their texts enact myth-making by inverting that binary and disguising truth/fact as fiction. In both cases, these two writers are at their literary best when making up stories. Mythology, precisely because of its generic position, allows space for the engaging, compelling, persuasive play of imaginative forces such as allegory, metaphor, and ambiguity—powerful forces ostensibly banned from cold prose. Yet these very devices often counter-intuitively invade Freud’s and Lewis’s “non-fiction” works as moments of beautiful indeterminacy that temporarily enrich but ultimately undermine the text’s official program.
In the end, however, it is the trajectory of their respective mythopoetic projects that alienates Freud and Lewis. Freud creates an imaginative brief history of the human race, supported by putative scholarship, to convince his reader that religion is an illusion on a par with obsessive neuroses, driven by a life-long desire to fulfill deep-seated wishes for mother-love or father-protection. Lewis creates narratives tied to fantastical, extraterrestrial, and pre-Christian settings in order to surprise his reader, through spatial displacement and narrative freshness, with the vitality of God’s existence and humankind’s relationship to Him. That relationship is predicated upon and perhaps even constituted by the very longing Freud dismisses as wishful thinking and Lewis inverts it into “thoughtful wishing” (Narrative Poems 4).

01 August 2007

[No] August Poem of the Month

Today is supposed to be Poem of the Month Day, but I'm too immersed in reading Freud, Derrida, de Mann, et al to even think about writing anything creative. It's terrible how theory freezes poetry, at least temporarily. So instead of having me just posting an old poem of my own, why don't you lovely readers post something of yours, or a link to a favorite classic poem? Wouldn't that be nice?

I'd love to talk a bit about literary theory here, and especially my new-found but age-old fascination with Deconstruction, but the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism awaits, as does Freud's Future of an Illusion....