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Showing posts from April, 2015

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Fellowship of the Book: T. M. Doran's Toward the Gleam (Review)

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Christmas is upon us, and Peter Jackson's new Hobbit movie has recently premiered, which reminds me of a great book I've been meaning to recommend. Anyone looking for a Christmas gift for fans of Tolkien's tales of Middle Earth should take a look at T. M. Doran's novel, Toward the Gleam (from Ignatius Press , available in hardback, ereader, and audio editions; get the Kindle version from Amazon .) It is both an homage to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and a gripping tale in its own right. The makers of the book's trailer definitely wanted to draw attention to the connection between Doran's novel and Tolkien's. The cover art design for the book should also remind readers of LOTR. Toward the Gleam 's cover was designed by John Herreid and executed by a wonderful Catholic artist, Daniel Mitsui . You can see that it incorporates some of the design elements from the well-known covers of the 1986 Houghton Mifflin edition (below), such as the r

Metamorphoses: Putting Ovid's flood in context

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Without context, we can't tell where we are, or what we're looking at. Recently, we took a close look at the account of the Great Flood that appears in the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh and found that, although it superficially resembles a similar account found in the Bible, its meaning was shaped by its context in the story. Context is always crucial for understanding anything — if you see a circle drawn on a page, without seeing it in relation to something else, you can’t tell if it’s mean to represent a ping pong ball, the Earth, or a freckle. The same is true when we are reading — you can’t understand what a story is intended to mean if you don’t know something about who is telling it, to whom he’s telling it, and in what circumstances or for what purpose. So as we now consider the Great Flood account in Ovid’s Metamorphoses , once again context will be crucial if we want to see what Ovid was getting at. Before we look at the context of the Flood account within the lar

Can the Epic of Gilgamesh still speak to us?

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The real test of literature is whether it continues to speak to us, after generations or even millennia. We’ve almost finished our examination of the Epic of Gilgamesh and its account of the Great Flood. All that’s left is to ask what enduring truths, if any, we find in this poem. Is this poem simply an archaeological curiosity, or does it still have something to offer modern readers? Disney's dream of having himself cryonically preserved was overruled by his survivors -- his remains were cremated. At first glance, it might seem not. The world that gave rise to this poem is very remote from us, not only in time but in culture. Its human figures seem barbaric and its callous and capricious gods are inscrutable — even Utnapishtim does not  try to explain their actions. But when we consider enduring truths, we have to move past cultural differences, which can be distracting. As a whole, it seems to me, the poem is about learning to accept our human limitations, something t

Movie makers need to read great literature, too

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I've  talked quite a bit on this blog about the importance of good stories , and how sad it is that our culture no longer seems interested in stories that enlarge us, that take us out of our petty interests and connect us to the larger human condition. Part of the problem, I believe, is that, by and large, people don't read any more, and when they do read they read the literary equivalent of Twinkies and Red Bull. Of course, reading is not the only way to be exposed to great stories. Film can also tell engrossing, thought-provoking stories. The problem is that most American filmmakers are more interested in spectacle than story, as Barbara Nicolosi and her collaborator Vicki Peterson discuss in this video interview:

Holy Saturday, the still center of all Creation

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I think in many ways Holy Saturday is my favorite day of the Sacred Triduum, chiefly because of this ancient homily, which is traditionally read on the morning of this day. Try reading this aloud in a church that has been stripped of its sacred appointments, and devoid of the Sacred Presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament — it will send ripples of awe down your spine. Homily on The Lord's descent into hell, by St John Chrysostom S omething strange is happening — there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. The first to fall from God's Grace, Adam and Eve are the first to be redeemed. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those

Words Worth Pondering: The Passion of Christ

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This week, in deference to Holy Week, I’m taking a break from ancient epic to consider the Passion of Christ. I'll start by asking two leading questions, the first of which is a kind of riddle: How is the Passion of Christ like a deponent verb? That one's rather obscure, so I'll answer it last. Let's begin with a somewhat easier question: Has it ever occurred to you that when we speak of the “passion of Christ,” we are using the word passion in a way that we rarely (if ever) do in any other context? When we speak of “passion” in ordinary conversation, usually we mean something like “an overriding desire or interest,” as in “riding dirt bikes is my passion.” I’ve had many students tell me that they wanted to choose a major that they were “passionate” about, meaning simply something they are really interested in. Two kinds of “passion”? Captain Kirk, in an alternate universe, was ruled by his passions. This idea that “passion” indicates intense interest is