Lecture: Flannery O’Connor and the Vision of Grace

 

Remember the very first episode of Sacred and Profane Love?  It was on Flannery O’Connor and Redemptive Love with my favorite Hillbilly Thomist, Thomas Joseph White, O.P. Anyway, I recently gave a lecture at the University Club in downtown Chicago titled, “Flannery O’Connor and the Vision of Grace”, which I am posting for those who are interested in how the thought of Thomas Aquinas informs O’Connor’s artistic vision.

Episode 20: Scruton’s Wagner: Sex, Death, and the Sacred

With the recent passing of the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, I decided to devote episode 20 to his provocative and comprehensive analysis of Wagner’s famous opera, which he lays out in his book, Death Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde (Oxford University Press, 2003).  In this episode, I speak with philosopher Fiona Ellis (University of Roehampton), about the self-transcendent and potentially redemptive and religious character of erotic love.   I hope you enjoy our conversation.

 

Fiona Ellis is Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Centre for Philosophy of Religion (formerly of Heythrop College, University of London). She worked at Heythrop College for 12 years, and has been Director of the Centre for Philosophy of Religion since 2010. Before Heythrop she had lectureships at Wadham College, Oxford, and Queen’s College, Oxford, and did her graduate work (BPhil and DPhil) at Oxford University under the supervision of Professor David Wiggins and Professor Paul Snowdon. Her research interests are in philosophy of religion (broadly construed), the relation between philosophy and theology, philosophical idealism, naturalism, the philosophy of love and desire, and the meaning of life. She is currently PI of a major research project titled, Quest for God: Towards a Theology of Desire.

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 19: Love and Lust in Lolita

After a long winter’s nap–i.e., the end of the semester madness followed by holidays with my family–I am back to releasing new episodes of Sacred and Profane Love.  I am starting the Spring semester with a discussion of Nabokov’s celebrated but controversial novel, Lolita.  In episode 19, titled “Love and Lust in Lolita,” I speak with Becca Rothfeld, award winning essayist, literary critic, and PhD candidate in philosophy at Harvard University, about the tensions we readers are forced to navigate between the awesome beauty of Nabokov’s prose and the ugly perversion that is the central focus of our attention in the novel.  As readers, it is natural to wonder how we can appreciate the beauty of the novel’s prose and the cleverness of its structure, given its dark subject matter.

Lolita is hardly alone in forcing us to explore these tensions, but as a mother of a twelve year old daughter, I felt the force of them more powerfully upon my latest reading of it.  Ultimately, Becca and I agree that one important aspect of literature, and art more generally, is to criticize without engaging in overt didacticism. In order for art to play this role we have to allow the artist to portray material that is offensive and objectionable in a manner that is still artistic–realistic and beautiful.  If we refuse art this role we are really only closing ourselves off from a complete vision of the way things are.  Not all art is meant to uplift or entertain; sometimes art functions to make us uncomfortable, to shock us out of the varieties of complacency towards which we inevitably drift.

Iris Murdoch puts the point this way: “Serious art must play with fire.”

 

In case you want to do your homework, here are the works referenced in our conversation

St. Augustine, City of God, Bk XIV

St. Augustine, Confessions, Bk X

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Iris Murdoch, “Literature and Philosophy” in Existentialists and Mystics

Becca Rothfeld, “The Real Lolita

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Plato, Symposium

Edgar Allen Poe, “Annabel Lee”

Becca Rothfeld writes essays, book reviews, and the occasional art review for publications like The TLSThe NationThe New York Times Book ReviewBookforum, Art in AmericaThe Baffler, and more. She is a two-time finalist for The National Book Critics Circle’s book reviewing prize (2016 and 2018), and in 2017, she was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the essays/criticism category. In 2018, her essay “Rhapsody in Blue” was included on the Notable Essays and Literary Non-Fiction list published in the 2019 Best American Essays anthology.  She is also a PhD candidate in philosophy at Harvard 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 17: The Death of a Whisky Priest

In episode 17 of Sacred and Profane Love, I speak with Dr. Angela Knoble about Graham Greene’s masterpiece, The Power and the Glory.  Set in Mexico during a period of brutal religious persecution, Greene’s novel explores questions of what true power and glory consist in, and what sort of love and life can make one a witness to it.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Works under discussion in this episode:

Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

Norman Sherry, The Life of Graham Greene

Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II  47 On Prudence

Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II 124 On Martyrdom

Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II 68 On the Gifts of the Spirit

Angela Knobel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. Her main areas of research are Thomas Aquinas’s virtue theory, ethics, and bioethics. Her papers have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The ThomistAmerican Catholic Philosophical QuarterlyNova et VeteraInternational Philosophical Quarterly and The Journal of Moral Theology.
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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This podcast is a project of Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life, and is made possible through a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Content copyright the University of South Carolina and the University of Chicago.

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

 

 

 

Episode 16: King Lear’s Vision

After a hiatus over the summer, I am back to recording and releasing new episodes of Sacred and Profane Love!  For all of the podcast’s fans, thank you so much for your patience and encouragement over the long summer. I am planning to release new episodes from now until late May, as many as I can manage in light of an insanely busy writing, teaching, and speaking schedule.  So, if you enjoy this humble podcast, be sure to subscribe and to share it with your friends.

In episode 16, “King Lear’s Vision,” I speak with Professor and poet Troy Jollimore about the connections between love and perception.  In his recent book, Love’s Vision, Jollimore, drawing on Plato and Iris Murdoch, argues that true love consists in grasping the objective value of the beloved rather than the projection of it.  This vision involves the bestowal of patient, loving, and imaginative attention on the objectively valuable qualities the beloved truly possesses. We explore this theme of love’s vision (or lack thereof) in Shakespeare’s darkest and wildest tragedy, King Lear.  Reading Lear, we conclude, can help to open our eyes to the fact that we need to get out of our own way—i.e., to put aside our deep insecurities and vices—in order to see and love people for who they really are.

Works referenced in this Episode:

  • Stanley Cavell, The Avoidance of Love: A Reading of King Lear.  In Must We Mean What We Say? Cambridge University Press, 1976
  • Troy Jollimore, Love’s Vision, Princeton University Press, 2011
  • Iris Murdoch, “Literature and Philosophy: A Conversation with Bryan Magee” and “Vision and Choice in Morality,” in Existentialists and Mystics, Penguin Books, 1992.
  • Plato, The Symposium, in Plato: Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
  • William Shakespeare, King Lear, in The Arden Shakespeare, edited by R.A. Foakes, Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1997.
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. Her research lies at the intersection of philosophy of action, ethics, and law, with a particular focus on the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition.  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