Episode 30 Sacred and Profane Love: The Seducer, Self-Creation, and The Aesthete

In this episode, I am joined by author and theologian Tara Isabella Burton. Tara and I explore the distinctive erotic pleasure one can experience in the act of creating a character out of another human being. This sort of seduction involves coming to possess someone else so as to transform them into a character in your own drama. This is a theme in the two works we discuss, Soren Kierkegaard’s The Seducer’s Diary and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. We also talk about the influence of Joris-Karl Huysman’s novel, Against Nature, on Wilde. Wilde’s novel, like Huysman’s, is a study of decadence and decay, but the end seems fairly moralizing, in spite of Wilde’s allegiance to the aesthetic. Or so we argue, anyway.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Tara Isabella Burton‘s debut novel, 2018’s Social Creature, was named a “book of the year” by The New York Times, New York’s Vulture, and The Guardian. A film adaptation is in development with Lionsgate. Her second novel, The World Cannot Give, a coming-of-age novel about desire, religious zealotry, and the hunger for transcendence among members of a cultic chapel choir at a Maine boarding school, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2022. Her first book of nonfiction, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless Worldpraised byThe Wall Street Journal as “a bracing tour through the myriad forms of bespoke spiritualism and makeshift quasireligions springing up across America”– appeared in 2020. Her next work of nonfiction, Self-Made: Curating Our Image from Da Vinci to the Kardashians, will be published by Public Affairs in 2023. She has written on religion, culture, and place for The New York TimesNational GeographicThe Washington Post, The Wall Street JournalCity Journal, The Economist’s 1843, AeonThe BBC, The AtlanticSalon, The New Statesman, ​and The TelegraphShe is a columnist at Religion News Service, a Contributing Editor at American Purpose, and the former staff religion writer at Vox. Her fiction has appeared in GrantaVolume 1 Brooklyn,The New Yorker‘s Daily Shouts, and more. She received a doctorate in theology from Trinity College, Oxford, where she was a Clarendon Scholar, in 2017. You can follow her on Twitter, @NotoriousTIB

Jennifer A. 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 First ThingsFare ForwardImageThe 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 William Deatherage.

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

Episode 29 Sacred and Profane Love: Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice with Agnes Mueller

In this episode I speak with my colleague, Agnes Mueller, who is professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina, about why Thomas Mann’s novella, Death in Venice, is a must read during our ongoing pandemic. We talk Modernism, Plato, and Nietzsche. We see the novella as exploring sickness, death, and eros, and we find similarities and continuities between the lovesickness that grips von Aschenbach and the cholera that eventually kills him. We also ask whether Mann’s novella is a rebuke of, or perhaps even a vindication of, Plato’s ideal of erotic love. Either way, we agree that the novella is a deep engagement with Platonic ideas and is one of the best treatments of love in literature, period.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Agnes Mueller (M.A., LMU Munich, Germany, 1993, Ph.D., Vanderbilt U, 1997), Professor, is an expert on recent and contemporary German literature. She is core faculty in Comparative Literature and affiliated with Women’s and Gender Studies and with Jewish Studies. Her publications are on German-American relations, multicultural studies, gender issues in contemporary literature, German-Jewish studies, and Holocaust studies. Her 2004 anthology German Pop Culture: How “American” Is It? (U of Michigan P) is widely used for teaching and research. In addition to all levels of German language and culture, she regularly teaches advanced undergraduate and graduate classes, and has lectured in Germany, Canada, and the U.S. Her most recently published book is entitled The Inability to Love: Jews, Gender, and America in Recent German Literature now available in German translation as Die Unfaehigkeit zu liebenShe is currently at work on a new project, entitled Holocaust Migration: Jewish Fiction in Today’s Germany. In it, she traces the ways in which challenges of living in a multi-ethnic society where past trauma is dispersed are negotiated.

Jennifer A. 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 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 PsychologyHer writing has also been featured in First ThingsFare ForwardImageThe 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 William Deatherage.

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

 

Episode 28: Agnes Callard on Antigone

In this episode, I have a wide ranging conversation with Agnes Callard. We discuss our experience teaching the Great Books Core at the University of Chicago, as well as why philosophers should read and teach great literature, how to teach Homer in a philosophy class, and how humans gain wisdom through mistakes and suffering. We also talk about arguments, piety, and wisdom in Antigone.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Agnes Callard is an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. She received her BA from the University of Chicago in 1997 and her PhD from Berkeley in 2008. Her primary areas of specialization are Ancient Philosophy and Ethics. She is the author of Aspiration as well as many articles on ancient philosophy. Her writing is regularly featured at The New York Times and The Point Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @AgnesCallard

Jennifer A. 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 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 PsychologyHer writing has also been featured in First Things, Fare Forward, Image, The 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 William Deatherage.

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

Episode 27 Sacred and Profane Love: Karen Swallow Prior on Reading Joseph Conrad Well

In this episode, I speak with Karen Swallow Prior, who is professor of English literature, Christianity, and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. We discuss how reading great books can be an education in virtue, and we apply these ideas to a reading of Joseph Conrad’s influential and controversial novella, Heart of Darkness.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Karen Swallow Prior is Research Professor of English Literature and Christianity and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012), Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014), and On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos, 2018). She is co-editor of Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues (Zondervan 2019) and has contributed to numerous other books. Her writing has appeared at Christianity TodayThe AtlanticThe Washington PostFirst ThingsVoxRelevantThink Christian, The Gospel Coalition, Religion News Service, Books and Culture and other places. She and her husband live on a 100-year old homestead in central Virginia with sundry horses, dogs, and chickens. And lots of books.

Jennifer A. Frey is 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 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 six chickens.

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 William Deatherage.

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

Episode 26 Sacred and Profane Love: St. Augustine and the Index of Self-Destructive Acts

In this episode, I talk with philosopher Jamie Smith (Calvin College) about St. Augustine and Christopher Beha’s latest novel, The Index of Self-Destructive Acts. Our conversation covers the surprising connections between St. Augustine and the existentialists–most especially Albert Camus–and how St. Augustine can help us understand the gap between what we long for and the finite world that we are situated in.

As always, I hope you enjoy our conversation.

James K.A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College where he holds the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview. The award-winning author of Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, his most recent books include Imagining the Kingdom (2013), Discipleship in the Present Tense (2013), Who’s Afraid of Relativism? (2014), and How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (2014), You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (2016). The author of a number of influential books, Smith also regularly writes for magazines and newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Slate, First Things, Christianity Today, Books & Culture, and The Hedgehog Review. He serves as editor-in-chief of Image journal.

Jennifer A. Frey is 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 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.

Subscribe

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 assistant 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 edited by William Deatherage.

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

Episode 25 Sacred and Profane Love: On Solitude with Rilke and Merton

In episode 25, I speak with Ian Marcus Corbin (Harvard) about solitude. We discuss Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke alongside Thomas Merton’s essay, “Rain and the Rhinoceros.”

Some choice quotes from Merton on solitude:

On Solitude and Death

“One who is not alone, says Philoxenos, has not discovered his identity. He seems to be alone, perhaps, for he experiences himself as “individual.” But because he is willingly enclosed and limited by the laws and illusions of collective existence, he has no more identity than an unborn child in the womb. He is not yet conscious. He is alien to his own truth. He has senses, but he cannot use them. He has life, but no identity. To have an identity, he has to be awake. But to be awake, he has to accept vulnerability and death. Not for their own sake: not out of stoicism or despair – only for the sake of the invulnerable inner reality which we cannot recognize (which we can only be) but to which we awaken only when we see the unreality of our vulnerable shell. The discovery of this inner self is an act and affirmation of solitude.”

On Solitude and Uselessness

“In all the cities of the world, it is the same,” says Ionesco. “The universal and modern man is the man in a rush (i.e. rhinoceros), a man who has no time, who is a prisoner of necessity, who cannot understand that a thing might perhaps be without usefulness; nor does he understand that, at bottom, it is the useful that may be a useless and back-breaking burden. If one does not understand the usefulness of the useless and the uselessness of the useful, one cannot understand art. And a country where art is not understood is a country of slaves and robots…” Rhinoceritis, he adds, is the sickness that lies in wait “for those who have lost the sense and taste for solitude.”

The Vocation of Solitude

Hence it is the solitary person (whether in the city or in the desert) who does mankind the inestimable favor of reminding it of its true capacity for maturity, liberty and peace.

Ian Marcus Corbin is a writer, researcher, and teacher in Cambridge, Mass. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School where he co-directs the Human Network Initiative. He is writing a book on solitude and solidarity.

Jennifer A. Frey is 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 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.

 Subscribe

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 assistant 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 edited by William Deatherage.

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