In their second podcast, the guys over at The Theology Studio played an interview they had with John Milbank. If you don't know who John Milbank is, he is one of the professors in the Theology Department here at Nottingham where I'm studying. In it, Milbank commented that graduate students (which here includes PhD students) probably should not have blogs. He sees it as an attempt to attain status and followers without putting in the work it takes to get the degree, or to get published. Note, despite what some say, Milbank is not saying blogging is bad, but that grad students probably shouldn't be blogging. This has made think about my own blog, which if I write in order to attain followers, I certainly do a bad job of it. So, the future of this blog, is for now in the proverbial wall.
In the second part of this post, I want to highlight some texts I've read over this past academic year. I won't give full on reviews, just a general list, a link to the texts on goodreads.com.Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene is an excellent, semi-Arthurian, unfinished, epic poem about a group of knights (one being a woman) who pursue virtue. All men, and young boys, should read this epic in order to learn about virtue in the Elizabethan period.
Norman Russell's The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition is a text that has helped me form my own thoughts on the doctrine of deification. If you want to know more about deification, but don't want to read this hefty text, feel free to message me.
Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians: The Fantasy of the Real by Alison Milbank (another professor in Nottingham's theology department and wife of John Milbank). I've loved Tolkien for as long as I can remember. Just last night I made a comment saying I cannot remember a time when I was not reading Tolkien. That being said, this book provides an interesting interplay between the similarities and differences in Chesterton and Tolkien. I certainly enjoyed reading someone who takes Tolkien seriously as a theologian.
After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory by Alasdair C. MacIntyre. This book was an excellent introduction to understanding philosophy and virtue, which I've done quite a bit more reading since. I'll probably need to come back to this book once I've done some more reading. My favourite chapter in this book (whose number I cannot remember) dealt with virtue and the heroes in Jane Austen's novels.
Emma by Jane Austen. When I first started reading Emma, which came after seeing the Kate Beckinsale version of the film, I have to say, I didn't care for it. Emma was self-important, a busybody, and pretentious. Yet I stuck it out, and now it is perhaps my second favourite Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice will always be my favourite. Emma is the only of Austen's heroines who not only needs, but truly undergoes character transformation.
Introducing Radical Orthodoxy Mapping A Post Secular Theology by James K.A. Smith. This book introduced me to the ideas from the theological sensibility known as Radical Orthodoxy. It is a decent read on Radical Orthodoxy, looked at from a sympathetic and critical (Dutch Reformed) perspective.
Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason by John Milbank gave voice to many of my own feelings, some I didn't know were in me till I read this book, about secularism and rational autonomy (i.e. that they don't properly exist). My main critique of this book is while being an excellent critique it does not offer much. However, Milbank's writing since has removed many, though not all, of my issues with this book.
There and Back by George MacDonald. Having long been a fan of MacDonald, particularly his Phantastes. This book had a rather Dickensian feel to it where the rich fall on hard times, become virtuous living with the working classes and, in MacDonald, come to belief in the one, true God.
After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy by Catherine Pickstock. This text was difficult for me. Her interaction with philosophy often overshot my knowledge. Nevertheless, Pickstock gave me language to talk about things that are simultaneously active and passive.
This is only a short list of the books I've read since September '11. Nevertheless, these are some that I read for the first time and that had an incredible impact on me, my research, and my understanding of theology (which is to say all of life).
What books have you read? Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Please do comment, I promise to engage in conversation.