Flannery O’Connor on Imagination, Solitude, and the Oddities of Life

I recently participated in a panel discussion with three other women on the fiction of Flannery O’Connor, which was hosted by the Collegium Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. In this discussion, I address the reasons why she called herself a “hillbilly Thomist”, the sense in which she believed our culture was “Christ haunted”, and her use of vision as a metaphor for the artist. I’m also excited that I’ll be teaching The Violent Bear it Away for the Collegium Institute faith in fiction series.

Of course, fans of the podcast may remember that I also dedicated the very first episode of Sacred and Profane Love to the fiction of Flannery O’Connor. You can access that conversation here, in case you missed it:

Christians in Times of Catastrophe: St. Augustine’s City of God

A Moderated Conversation on The City of God with Jennifer Frey, Russell Hittinger, and Fr. Michael Sherwin, O.P.

It was my pleasure to participate in this moderated discussion on the relevance of St. Augustine’s City of God for thinking about the problems that define our current historical moment. Not surprisingly, it is my view that now, more than ever, we need to be looking for wisdom in our rich philosophical and theological heritage.

Augustine wrote the City of God in response to the sack of Rome in 410. In this monumental work, Augustine outlines his vision of two cities founded on two loves–the earthly city, founded on the inordinate love of self, and the heavenly city, founded on the love of God. The sack of Rome is but a pretext for Augustine to explore the only two great catastrophes of man: the fall from grace and the crucifixion of Christ. Augustine will argue that we must take both catastrophes to be part of God’s providential order.

Augustine urges us to try to be virtuous so that our loves are well-ordered; this virtue allows us to enjoy the goods of this world, but in the knowledge that they cannot perfect or complete us. Augustine stresses that ultimately we are pilgrims in the earthly city–our true home and our true happiness lies elsewhere.

In our discussion, we review the structure of the book and Augustine’s purposes in writing it. We talk about evil, suffering, providence, exile, virtue, and grace. I hope you enjoy our conversation

Episode 24: On Reading The Plague in a Plague

This is our final episode of the podcast for the academic year.  I’ll be recording new episodes over the summer, which I will begin releasing next September.  We decided to end the season with the unexpected, runaway best seller of Spring 2020, Albert Camus’s, The Plague.  In this episode, I am once again joined by philosopher and poet Troy Jollimore, to talk about the absurd, evil, suffering, theodicy, God, death, metaphysical rebellion, and of course, virtue.  As always, I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Troy Jollimore holds a PhD in Philosophy from Princeton and currently teaches at California State University, Chico. He is the author of three books of philosophy, including Love’s Vision and On Loyalty.  He is also the author of three collections of poetry: At Lake Scugog, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, and Syllabus of Errors.  He has received fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Jennifer A. Frey is assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. 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 Classics minor) at Indiana University-Bloomington. 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 PsychologyShe lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, six children, and a bunch of chickens.

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

Episode 23: Lost in Thought with Zena Hitz

In Episode 23, I speak with Zena Hitz about her new book, Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life.  We discuss how love of learning saved us and how we can reclaim it for ourselves in our busy and distracted world. I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Zena Hitz is a tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland where she teaches across the liberal arts.  She writes in defense of intellectual activity for its own sake, a thesis she defends in her new book, Lost in Thought.  Her scholarly work has focused on the political thought of Plato and Aristotle, especially the question of how law cultivates or fails to cultivate human excellence.  She received an MPhil in Classics from Cambridge and studied Social Thought and Philosophy at the University of Chicago before finishing her PhD in Philosophy at Princeton University.

Jennifer A. Frey is assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. 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 Classics minor) at Indiana University-Bloomington. 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 Psychology

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

 

 

 

Episode 22: Huxley on Love and Longing in the Dystopia

In episode 22, I am joined by the philosopher David McPherson, of Creighton University, to discuss Huxley’s famous sci-fi dystopia, “Brave New World.”  We discuss how technological progress can accelerate processes of dehumanization and how the loss of piety transforms how we experience love and desire.  Along the way, we bring in help from Nietzsche, Alasdair MacIntyre, Cora Diamond, Michael Sandel, and of course, Leon Kass. As always, I hope you enjoy our conversation.

David McPherson is associate professor of philosophy at Creighton University.  He is the author of Virtue and Meaning: A Neo-Aristotelian Perspective and editor of Spirituality and the Good Life: Philosophical Approaches. He is currently working on a book that addresses alienation.

Jennifer A. Frey is assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. 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 Classics minor) at Indiana University-Bloomington. 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 Psychology

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

 

 

 

 

Episode 21: Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim

Like everyone else, my life has been upended by the global pandemic.  I have five kids in public schools here in South Carolina (plus one very rambunctious and ornery toddler), so I am now a homeschooling Mom in addition to being a professor, podcaster, and writer.  I am sleep deprived and each day I fall further and further behind were I’d like to be.  My priority right now is my family.

However, I’m still trying to put up content on the podcast, because I believe that now, more than ever, we need time and space for reflection and contemplation.  We need art, friends, and I desperately need the sort of conversation I just had for this episode.  I am not as prepared for these podcasts as I’d normally be, but I hope that this pandemic content still inspires you to pick up a great book and think about what really matters.

I was genuinely thrilled to discover that Phil Klay, national book award winning author of Redeployment and Iraq war veteran, not only knew who I was but was endorsing my humble podcast on Twitter!  Let me return the favor: Phil has a podcast of his own, with Jacob Siegal, which, like mine, tries to model the art of great conversation about art and ideas.  If you don’t know about Manifesto pod, have a listen and consider subscribing!  I think you will not be disappointed.

Episode 21 is a discussion about Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim. Phil and I discuss narrative identity and self-knowledge, the perils we encounter in our search for truth, and the nature of the absurd.  As always, I hope you enjoy our conversation.