Sacred and Profane Love Episode 41: James Baldwin is Bringing the Fire with Dr. Cornel West

I am pleased to share a very special episode of Sacred and Profane, our first episode recorded in front of a live audience, and with the amazing Dr. Cornel West! The context for this episode is that the Classic Learning Test (which has sponsored several episodes this season, and on whose board of academic advisors I happily serve) held its third annual higher education summit in beautiful Annapolis, Maryland, and invited me to record an episode for the educators who had gathered for three wonderful days to discuss aspects of the summit’s theme: Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” The result is the conversation that is episode 41, in which Cornel West and I discuss James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and Go Tell it on the Mountain. Cornel argues that Baldwin is a “Socratic prophet” and a “love warrior”, and that if we only approach him through a political lens we will miss or misunderstand so much of what he has to say. Cornel helpfully traces out some of Baldwin’s main influences: From Conrad and James to Mahalia Jackson and Ray Charles, but argues that, in the end, Go Tell it on the Mountain is a profoundly Augustinian novel. As always, I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary and holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. Cornel West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton. He has written 20 books and has edited 13. He is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. His most recent book, Black Prophetic Fire, offers an unflinching look at nineteenth and twentieth-century African American leaders and their visionary legacies. Dr. West is a frequent guest on the Bill Maher Show, CNN, C-Span and Democracy Now. He made his film debut in the Matrix – and was the commentator (with Ken Wilbur) on the official trilogy released in 2004. He also has appeared in over 25 documentaries and films including Examined LifeCall & ResponseSidewalk and Stand. He has produced three spoken word albums including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert. His spoken word interludes are featured on productions by Terence Blanchard, The Cornel West Theory, Raheem DeVaughn, and Bootsy Collins.

Jennifer Frey is an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with a Classics minor) at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and PsychologyHer writing has also been featured in Breaking Ground, First ThingsFare ForwardImageLaw and LibertyThe Point, and USA Today. She lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, six children, and six chickens. You can follow her on Twitter @jennfrey.

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Sacred and Profane Love is a podcast in which philosophers, theologians, and literary critics discuss some of their favorite works of literature, and how these works have shaped their own ideas about love, happiness, and meaning in human life. Host Jennifer A. Frey is associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. The podcast is generously supported by The Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America and produced by Catholics for Hire.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5

Sacred and Profane Love Episode 40: The Tragic Vision of Eugene O’Neill

In this episode, I speak with the journalist Damon Linker about the Pulitzer prize winning American playwright, Eugene O’Neill. Our conversation mostly centers around A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the semi-autobiographical account of the tortured dynamics within in his own family. We discuss O’Neill’s uniquely Catholic variety of atheism, of how his work resonates with themes from Simone Weil, in her essay, “Literature and Morals,” the difference between a transcendence that orders the self to the good and the transcendence that is ordered towards the obliteration of the self, and finally, O’Neill’s his tragic vision of the human person.

Damon and I had originally planned to discuss The Iceman Cometh as well, but we ran out of time. Happily, we got back together to record a PATRONS ONLY episode on Iceman. If you’d like to support the podcast, and listen to our discussion of Iceman, please sign up to be a patron here:

https://www.patreon.com/eudaimoniapod

As always, I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Damon Linker is a senior correspondent at The Week.com. In recent years, he has taught in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania and worked as a consulting editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press and as a senior editor at Newsweek/The Daily Beast. Until November 2014 he was a contributing editor at The New Republic. Linker is the author of The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege and The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other leading publications. He has edited First Things magazine, served as a speechwriter for New York’s Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and taught political philosophy at Brigham Young University. Linker studied history, philosophy, and writing at Ithaca College, graduating with a BA in 1991. He went on to earn an MA in history from New York University and a Ph.D. in political science from Michigan State University. Born in New York City, Linker lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

Jennifer Frey is an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with a Classics minor) at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and PsychologyHer writing has also been featured in Breaking Ground, First ThingsFare ForwardImageLaw and LibertyThe Point, and USA Today. She lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, six children, and six chickens. You can follow her on Twitter @jennfrey.

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Sacred and Profane Love is a podcast in which philosophers, theologians, and literary critics discuss some of their favorite works of literature, and how these works have shaped their own ideas about love, happiness, and meaning in human life. Host Jennifer A. Frey is associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. The podcast is generously supported by The Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America and produced by Catholics for Hire.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5

Episode 39 Sacred and Profane Love: Gabriel Marcel’s Thirst

In this episode, I speak with Michial Farmer about the philosopher and playwright Gabriel Marcel–more specifically, we discuss his play, Thirst, and one of his essays, “The Mystery of the Family.” We talk about how Marcel’s plays give him the materials for his later philosophy, and how Marcel differs from other existentialist philosophers, like Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Kierkegaard.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Michial Farmer is one-third of the Christian Humanist Podcast. He is the author of Imagination and Idealism in John Updike’s Fiction, and his essays have appeared in The Front Porch Republic, The Cresset, Christ and Pop Culture, and Touchstone.

Jennifer Frey is an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with a Classics minor) at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and PsychologyHer writing has also been featured in Breaking Ground, First ThingsFare ForwardImageLaw and LibertyThe Point, and USA Today. She lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, six children, and six chickens. You can follow her on Twitter @jennfrey.

Subscribe

Become a Patron!

Preview on iTunes


Sacred and Profane Love is a podcast in which philosophers, theologians, and literary critics discuss some of their favorite works of literature, and how these works have shaped their own ideas about love, happiness, and meaning in human life. Host Jennifer A. Frey is associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. The podcast is generously supported by The Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America and produced by Catholics for Hire.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5

Episode 38 Sacred and Profane Love: The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins

In this episode, I speak with the writer Nick Ripatrazone about the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the authors featured in his latest book, Wild Belief. We discuss the spiritual dimensions of wilderness and how the contemplation of the natural world can have transcendent dimensions.

As always, I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Nick Ripatrazone is an author, teacher, and editor. He is the author of Wild Belief: Poets and Prophets in the Wilderness and Longing for an Absent God: Faith and Doubt in Great American Fiction. He is the culture editor for Image magazine, a Contributing Editor for the Catholic Herald (UK), and The Millions where he has written the monthly poetry column for the past five years. He is also a columnist for Literary Hub. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Esquire, Outside, The Sewanee Review, America, Commonweal, The Christian Century, Christianity Today, The Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review, The Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and twin daughters in the part of New Jersey with lots of forests and lakes and bobcats.

Jennifer Frey is an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with a Classics minor) at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and PsychologyHer writing has also been featured in Breaking Ground, First ThingsFare ForwardImageLaw and LibertyThe Point, and USA Today. She lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, six children, and six chickens. You can follow her on Twitter @jennfrey.

Bonus Episode Sacred and Profane Love: Matthew Mehan on Children’s Literature

Sometimes, you just need to do something fun, and this episode reflects one of those times. I was in DC this summer for a week teaching, so I popped into the Hillsdale College recording studio (where I’ve been before to chat Walker Percy) to talk with one of my favorite children’s lit authors, Matthew Mehan. We discuss children’s lit generally and also discuss his own books (which I highly recommend!): The Handsome Little Cygnet and Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals.

I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Dr. Matthew Mehan is the Director of Academic Programs for Washington D.C. and Assistant Professor of Government for the Van Andel Graduate School of Government. He has been teaching and designing humanities curricula for twenty years. Dr. Mehan is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the valedictorian of his class. He received a B.A. in politics, an M.A. in English, and a Ph.D. in Literature (with honors) for his dissertation on Shakespeare, Thomas More, and the education of leading citizens. For the last five years, he has also taught for the College’s Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program for undergraduates.

Dr. Mehan has consulted for national leaders and heads of state. He has written for various outlets both scholarly and popular, including Moreana and The Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals, an illustrated, best-selling book of poems that one critic called “a new classic” in children’s literature. His lovely wife and their passel of children live in Virginia. He graduated from Okemos Public High School in Okemos, Michigan, and he misses Michigan summers.

Jennifer Frey is an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with a Classics minor) at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and PsychologyHer writing has also been featured in Breaking Ground, First ThingsFare ForwardImageLaw and LibertyThe Point, and USA Today. She lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, six children, and six chickens. You can follow her on Twitter @jennfrey

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Sacred and Profane Love is a podcast in which philosophers, theologians, and literary critics discuss some of their favorite works of literature, and how these works have shaped their own ideas about love, happiness, and meaning in human life. Host Jennifer A. Frey is associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. The podcast is generously supported by The Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America and produced by Catholics for Hire.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5


Episode 37 Sacred and Profane Love: Boethius and John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

O, Fortuna! The long awaited episode on A Confederacy of Dunces has at last arrived in your podcast feed.

In this episode, I speak with podcast regular (see episode 14 on Walker Percy), Professor Jessica Hooten Wilson, about Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. We discuss one of the greatest literary figures of all time, Ignatius J. Reilly, “slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas all rolled into one” and his “great gaseous rages and lunatic adventures.” We discuss why a recent New Yorker hit piece on Ignatius is just plain embarrassing for its author, insofar as it displays an all too familiar inability to read books. But it is not difficult to be more intellectually sophisticated than the New Yorker these days, and we invite you to read this Pulitzer Prize novel as the work of comic art it truly is. I hope you enjoy laughter, because there is quite a bit in this episode!

As always, I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Jessica Hooten Wilson is the Louise Cowan Scholar in Residence at the University of Dallas. She is the author of Giving the Devil his Due: Flannery O’Connor and The Brothers Karamazov, which received a 2018 Christianity Today Book of the Year Award in the Culture & the Arts; as well as two books on Walker Percy: The Search for Influence: Walker Percy and Fyodor Dostoevsky (Ohio State University Press, 2017) and Reading Walker Percy’s Novels (Louisiana State University Press, 2018); most recently she co-edited Solzhenitsyn and American Culture: The Russian Soul in the West (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020). She has received numerous fellowships, grants, and awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship to the Czech Republic, an NEH grant to study Dante in Florence in 2014, and the Biola Center for Christian Thought sabbatical fellowship.  In 2018 she received the Emerging Public Intellectual Award given by a coalition of North American think tanks in collaboration with the Centre for Christian Scholarship at Redeemer University College, and in 2019 she received the Hiett Prize in Humanities from The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.

Jennifer Frey is an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with a Classics minor) at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and PsychologyHer writing has also been featured in Breaking Ground, First ThingsFare ForwardImageLaw and LibertyThe Point, and USA Today. She lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, six children, and six chickens. You can follow her on Twitter @jennfrey

Subscribe

Become a Patron!

Preview on iTunes

Sacred and Profane Love is a podcast in which philosophers, theologians, and literary critics discuss some of their favorite works of literature, and how these works have shaped their own ideas about love, happiness, and meaning in human life. Host Jennifer A. Frey is associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina. The podcast is generously supported by The Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America and produced by Catholics for Hire.

This episode of Sacred and Profane Love is sponsored by The Classical Learning Test, which provides an to alternative standardized tests rooted in tradition. Featuring passages selected from great works across a variety of disciplines, the CLT suite of assessments provide a highly accurate and rigorous measure of reasoning, aptitude, and academic formation for students from diverse educational backgrounds. The exams are taken online in just two to three hours, and all three assessments (traditional CLT, CLT10, CLT8) give test results within 24 hours. (Please note that scores for the new remote-proctored CLT are available 1-2 weeks after testing.) The CLT also provides colleges and secondary schools with detailed information about student learning trends, to facilitate decisions about admissions, curricula, and instruction. The CLT unites a dedicated group of educators, businesspeople, and scholars, all in service to a shared passion: to reconnect intellectual pursuit with the pursuit of virtue.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5