Category Archives: In the Media

Theology & Arts Initiatives

In September, St Vladimir’s Seminary (New York) hosted an unscripted workshop of a dozen scholars to think through the possibilities for a Sacred Arts Initiative within the Orthodox Church. Participants included composer Ivan Moody, iconographer George Kordis, Helen Evans (Curator of Byzantine Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), as well as scholars in literature (Mary Carruthers), art history (Annemarie Weyl Carr, Vasileios Marinis), music (Margot Fassler, Peter Jefferey), philosophy (Gordon Graham) and theology (Peter Bouteneff and Richard Schneider, organizers; me). The workshop concluded with a public panel entitled ‘Rethinking Sacred Arts’.

A report about the workshop, and links to a podcast of the public panel and to a photo gallery, can be found on the Orthodox Church in America website.
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Earlier this summer, I was in London for the first of two colloquia on Image as Theology organized by Casey Strine (Sheffield),Alexis Torrance (Notre Dame), and Mark McInroy (St Thomas), and bringing together Biblical scholars and theologians around questions of images functioning as theology.

At home in the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts, we are starting our own ‘theological art’ initiative, TheoArtistry, spearheaded by my colleague George Corbett and involving our part-time professor Sir James MacMillan, which aims to bring together practising artists and our theologians to create, perform and curate new art. More information is available here.

 

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Author Interview on Heidegger & Theology

Heidegger and Theology by Judith Wolfe


T&T Clark
What particular areas or themes of Theology interest you and why?

JW: I’m particularly interested in the ways theology opens for thinking about what the world is like, and what it is to be human. ‘If we claim this or that about God, what does that mean for our understanding of a good life, or free will, or our relationship to nature?’ And conversely, ‘if we pay close attention to human experience, what can it teach us about the possibility of knowing God?’ Theology in this sense cannot be strictly separated from what philosophers or literary scholars do; rather, it’s a way of pursuing the same questions with the freedom and the scholarly tools to take seriously the role that the question of God plays in those pursuits.

T&T: How would you describe your book in one sentence?

JW: What it says on the package: it aims to give readers a thorough understanding, based on the latest research, of Heidegger’s relationship to theology – in his life, in his thought & writings, and in the theological reception of his work.

T&T: When did you start researching for this book?

JW: I’ve been reading Heidegger and his theological friends and enemies for a long time, but began research for this book in earnest during a two-year visiting fellowship in Berlin from 2009 to 2011. The libraries of Humboldt University and the state collections, as well as the archives of Freiburg University, have wonderful resources which have never been used by English-speaking scholars, including Heidegger’s various correspondences and the Minutes of his faculty board meetings during the 1930’s and 40’s.

T&T: Which part of writing this book have you enjoyed most?

JW: One of the great things about working on Heidegger is that it involves both serious philosophical and theological questions and real biographical problems (such as the details of his ‘conversion’ from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, or his relationship to Nazism). I love both detective work in archives and very abstract thought, so perhaps the most fun thing about writing this book was the chance to see what light they throw on each other.

T&T: Any tips for people reading the book?

JW: Having a big glass of gin and tonic to hand?
Other than that, it’s worth saying… Continue reading

Heidegger’s Black Notebooks: Caught between Hitler and Romanticism

Heidegger desk…Bultmann’s sympathetic response may seem shocking; but in reality, it merely shows how unspecific the National Socialist programme still was in the early Thirties. To Heidegger, as to many other intellectuals at the time, it seemed less an innovation than a return to the great nationalist tradition of the 19th century…

Read the full article on Heidegger’s Black Notebooks in Standpoint Magazine.

C.S. Lewis in Standpoint Magazine

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When Lewis accepted theism and later Christianity, it was not so much because God was a foolproof answer to the problem of evil, as because He alone made it possible for us to experience evil as evil: to ask the sort of questions and feel the sorts of desire and indignation that define our human experience.

Click here to read the full article on C.S. Lewis in Standpoint magazine.

 

C.S. Lewis in Poets’ Corner

CS Lewis Memorial

On 22 November, a permanent memorial was dedicated to C.S. Lewis in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.

Under Michael Ward’s excellent leadership, I was one of the petitioners for this memorial, and one of the speakers at the public symposium celebrating its unveiling.

A podcast of our podium discussion, “What can 21st-Century apologetics learn from C.S. Lewis,” is available here.

 

Perelandra the Opera

 

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Donald Swann’s lost opera, based on the book by C.S. Lewis, has long been overdue for rediscovery.

Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, Michael Flanders & Donald Swann were the toast of the West End and Broadway with their two comic shows, At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat. It was during a run in New York that Donald Swann began to look for a more serious project, and suggested to his Oxford collaborator David Marsh that they create an opera based on C.S. Lewis’s novel Perelandra, which both admired.

The piece was four years in the writing, with the approval and collaboration of C.S. Lewis. In 1962, Lewis wrote to Marsh: ‘I think [the libretto] just stunningly good. It brought tears to my eyes in places’. Done right, ‘it will be terrific. I very heartily congratulate you’. The opera was also very dear to Swann’s heart, and contains some of his most lyrical music.

The opera was performed in concert in Oxford, Cambridge, and at the Mermaid Theatre, London in 1964, and in a student stage production in Haverford and New York City in 1969. It was well received. For The Wall Street Journal, ‘Swann’s score is always effective theatre music, tellingly keyed to the shifting dramatic tensions, and rising at moments to scalp-prickling power and threat. At other times it has a lambent lyricism’. For The New Yorker, ‘soaring choruses and very singable arias follow one another with seemingly endless fecundity’.

However, the sale of the film rights shortly after Lewis’ death placed an effective embargo on any dramatic representation of Perelandra. As a result, although the legal situation has now changed, the opera remains largely unknown, remembered only by a handful of admirers. The time is overdue for a new appraisal of this captivating and challenging work.

The Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, with the permission of the Estates of C.S. Lewis, Donald Swann and David Marsh, produced Perelandra in its original, three-act form as a ‘theatrical oratorio’ in the summer of 2009. The performance run was augmented by a high-quality archive recording to assist potential future producers in its assessment. Jointly, the performance and the recording represent a major step in the reception of both C.S. Lewis and Donald Swann, who singly regarded Perelandra, the book and the opera, as among their finest works.

Exclusive sound clips can be heard on Transpositions.

You can also read reports in the Daily Telegraph and the Church Times.

How about a revival in Scotland?

Also of interest: newly published book C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra: Reshaping the Image of the Cosmos