Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"It is the fear of becoming that idiot that baptized them as serious library researchers"

A coworker showed me an excerpt from a paper given by Andrew Abbott (a UChicago sociology professor) on "The Future of Knowing." In it, Abbott seeks to do no less than "remind us what knowing is".

The following quote is one portion of his wider argument and so a little less ambitious; here he merely makes a good point about doing research wisely in a situation of an enormous amount of digitized metadata.

After going back and reading his entire essay, I must admit that I feel a bit silly only posting a portion of it here. Abbott's whole point is that students and young scholars with whom he has worked lack many basic skills for reading and research, and the thrust of his thesis is against the sort of discrete soundbyte and linking that I'm doing here. I would recommend strongly that you follow the above link and read his complete paper, at which point the following excerpt will really become a rather minor detail in comparison. It was, however, the anecdote that interested me in the full paper, so I suppose there's not too much harm in re-posting it here:

[A student] decided to write on the ways the US government gives out money, in particular about block grants. And he had found interesting material in Lexis/Nexis. He told us the idea of block grants went back far further than we thought. It wasn't just a Reagan invention, it went back to the 1930s. The only problem was that there was plenty of material in the 1980s, the 1970s, the 1960s, the 1940s and the 1930s, but nothing in the 1950s. Try as he would, Brian couldn't find anything.

[...] First he found a 1950s congressional speech sure to contain the phrase "block grant." Then he read the actual document and - sure enough - found the phrase. So it OUGHT to be found by the keyword query "block grant." And he ascertained that the keyword "grant" would locate this document, but the keyword "block" would not. So he tried various misspellings: black, blank, plonk, prank, blink, and so on. He hit paydirt with "blook." It turned out "blook grant" returned dozens of documents form the 1950s, all of which had in them the phrase "block grant." "Blook grant" of course, was an optical character recognition error. And it turned out, Brian discovered triumphantly, that the Federal government had changed its font around 1950. So the OCR algorithms, which are AI based, trained themselves on the old font, and then couldn't read the new font when it showed up. [...]

But it was news to the students that the electronic tools are not perfection. They had no idea that however comprehensive they may be, they are generally less accurate than the print sources that preceded them. Even less did they suspect that those inaccuracies could be systematic. Somewhere out there, they now realized, some idiot is writing a paper on how the concept of block grants disappeared from American political discourse in the 1950s. It is the fear of becoming that idiot that baptized them as serious library researchers.

Again (and now with the benefit of a bold-faced warning about becoming that idiot), please read the whole paper.

Monday, September 28, 2009

From neighboring disciplines...

Two interesting conversations have been going on about the current state and future prospects of cultural studies and intellectual history:

Michael Bérubé's recent essay, "What's the Matter with Cultural Studies?", has provoked a good bit of criticism, to which he has responded at length. He has now brought the discussion over to Crooked Timber, where you can find some convenient links to the back-and-forth as well as some synthesis.

Andrew Hartman and Paul Murphy at U.S. Intellectual History are discussing a symposium in the September issue of Historically Speaking on the current state of intellectual history. Andrew's response is here, and Paul's response is here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A few items...

  • ...and apparently more than just the journal has moved away from Ave Maria-- Matthew Levering is now at the University of Dayton. Hired with Levering for 2009 are Vincent Miller from Georgetown and David O'Brien, who comes from emeritus status at College of the Holy Cross.
  • Volume 12 in the Fortress series of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's works is coming out on October 1st: Berlin 1932-1933.
  • ...also scheduled for release on October 1st is The Grandeur of Reason, covering last year's Rome conference of the same name. A number of theology bloggers presented at the conference, and I imagine at least some of those papers will be in the volume.
  • A rather bad article on a supposed humanities "bubble," pointed out at Crooked Timber. It's good to see some strong defense of theology in the comment section.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jesus of Nazareth- books from the pope and recent responses

Jesus of Nazareth, the pope's first book published during his pontificate, has instigated a flurry of responses and a renewed interest in Jesus as a subject of discussion. It has also recently been reported that Benedict's second book on Jesus of Nazareth will be out in the spring of 2010, assuring that the conversation will continue.

A while back, Ben mentioned Gerd Lüdemann's book, Das Jesusbild des Papste, a response to the pope's first book. The Veritas series has also just released The Pope and Jesus of Nazareth, which comes from a 2008 conference at the University of Nottingham. The journal Theological Studies has also devoted a special issue on "The Galilean Jesus" to the topic, providing some rich responses (including articles from Guitiérrez and Sobrino) that draw deeply from contextual theologies. While not specifically about his Jesus volumes, Brazos will soon release Scott Hahn's new study, Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.

Other resources could surely be noted; I feel as if there's been another symposium or two published in journals, but can't track them down at the moment. Anyone with titles to add to the bibliography should feel free to share.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hobbes's Leviathan and its reader

My copy of Hobbes's Leviathan is a shabby old Pelican paperback. I don't know where it came from- I probably grabbed it from a used book rack for 50 cents at some point (as you know, a person is more or less culturally obligated to obtain any of the usual suspects of the Western canon when they are found available... often as Penguin volumes... under secondhand circumstances).

Regardless of how the thing ended up on my bookshelf, I happened to pick it up and flip through it while the computer was starting up. In doing so, I ran across a surprisingly candid preface written on the front flap by the previous owner, whoever he or she might have been:


I don't know whether this was an instance of venting some animosity through defacement, or a public service announcement to unsuspecting future readers, or what.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dissent that is Catholic

Yesterday, Adam Kotsko of An und für sich brought up Ratzinger's response to liberation theology:

If you want to avoid becoming angry, try not to read Boff and Boff’s Introducing Liberation Theology and Ratzinger’s “Instruction on Certain Aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’” in rapid succession.

I mean, seriously, who the fuck decided that 1984 — i.e., the fucking peak of the death squad era — was an opportune time to slap down liberation theology tout court? (And don’t tell me he hedges, because he starts out by hedging and then shifts toward using “theology of liberation” only to refer to the bad Marxist kind that basically existed only in his own precious and balanced mind.)

I think Adam raises important concerns. Even as someone who sits somewhere in the orbit of Ratzinger's stance on this and other aspects of theology, I remain deeply uncomfortable about certain harsh crackdowns on Christian dissent, not least when such profound issues of justice are at stake as were in Latin America and elsewhere. I think that a criticism of the sort that Clodovis Boff has recently leveled (as David points out here) is the appropriate route, rather than outright censure of a clearly vibrant and pious movement in the life of the Church... and liberation theology was and is clearly that, whether or not I'm entirely in agreement with its approach.

By way of contributing to the conversation, I wanted to point out an article in the new issue of Expository Times. Deirdre McGovern's "Dissent in Contemporary Catholic Context" considers the way that the concept of "dissent" is often associated with 1) negative connotations and 2) political liberalism (a good example is the Ignatius Press blog's recent focus on the Sisters of Charity).

McGovern does a good job of exposing these misunderstandings, pointing out the relationship between dissent and reform. In addition, she argues that the main source of more destructive cases of dissent since Vatican II has arguably come not from the left, but from conservative corners that have stood opposed to the development of Church teaching. She discusses the position of CIC 1983 on the voicing of dissent (Can. 212), and the tightening (or indeed, the actual rejection) of it in the 1998 document Ad Tuendam Fidem. Ratzinger plays into this narrative as he did the 1984 instruction on Boff, this time through the commentary on John Paul II's promulgation. McGovern goes on to argue, against Ratzinger and the general sentiment of contemporary conservative factions of Roman Catholicism, that dissent is a necessary part of Catholic faith insofar as it works as a reforming agent. The essay is worth reading and helpful as a proposal for dialogue in the Church.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New issue of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal...

...is out.

Following is the table of contents to EccLJ 11.3, with abstracts:


John Witte, "A Demonstrative Theory of Natural Law: Johannes Althusius and the Rise of Calvinist Jurisprudence" pp. 248-265.
Early modern Calvinists produced a rich tradition of natural law and natural rights thought that shaped the law and politics of protestant lands. The German-born Calvinist jurist Johannes Althusius produced one of the most original Calvinist natural law theories at the turn of the seventeenth century. Althusius argued for the natural qualities of a number of basic legal norms and practices by demonstrating their near universal embrace by classical and biblical, catholic and protestant, theological and legal communities alike. On this foundation, he developed a complex theory of public, private, penal and procedural rights and duties for his day, to be embraced by everyone, particularly by those who were slaughtering each other in religious wars, persecutions and inquisitions. Althusius' theory of natural law and natural rights was Calvinist in inspiration but universal in aspiration, and it anticipated the political formulations of a number of later Western writers, including Locke, Rousseau and Madison.

Charles Mynors, "Ecclesiastical Buildings: Constraints and Opportunities" pp. 266-283.
This paper looks at the systems available for the control of works to churches, and considers the arguments for and against the ecclesiastical exemption from the secular system of listed building control. It also examines the principles underlying the exercise of the faculty jurisdiction in relation to works to churches, both those that are listed and others, and relates this to the most recent policy guidance from English Heritage.

"A Decade of Ecumenical Dialogue on Canon Law"
A Report on the Proceedings of the Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers 1999–2009, pp. 284-328.
In the decades that followed the close of the Second Vatican Council, great progress was made in the dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. During that period, the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) was founded in 1967 by Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Michael Ramsey). The rich and common heritage shared by Anglicans and Roman Catholics found expression in the work and statements of ARCIC. In the background was the work of theologians, historians, liturgists and Scripture scholars, and many relationships were being cultivated locally in dioceses and parishes around the world. While the possible significance of Church law had been recognised in the 1974 World Council of Churches Report, Christian Unity and Church Law, there has been no sustained discussion of canon law in the work of ARCIC.

Comments (no abstract)

John Witte, "Keeping the Commandments" pp. 329-331.

Stephen White, "The Maintenance of Closed Anglican Churchyards" pp. 331-334.

Frank Cranmer, "Human Sexuality and the Church of Scotland: Aitken et al v Presbytery of Aberdeen" pp. 334-339.

Summer in retrospect

I've enjoyed reading what other bloggers planned to do or ended up doing over the summer in terms of read & writing. I never like sharing that sort of stuff, as I always feel like I'm behind in the rat race. In my defense, I'm a part-time student on top of a full-time job that, while it's related to academia, does not incorporate research or publishing into its responsibilities or expectations. So all of this is on the margins of a 40-hour work week.

I think the summer went about how I expected. I had some interest in doing some writing, but figured from the beginning that this wouldn't happen, and I was right. That's fine, though. I needed some time to recharge after my first year of juggling fatherhood and UChicago on top of normal work. We took a number of long weekends to Michigan and enjoyed the lakes and the farmland, which helped me a lot in refocusing on what was important. While I won't list it below, Tricia and I listened to Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on our car trips and at home, which also played a role in helping me to think through life outside of academic matters (as you can see from the picture, I also read books with Sophie-- likewise not listed here, likewise helpful in thinking through life outside of academia)

Classes start next week at the Divinity School, hence the late posting of a summer list. Here it goes:


I didn't keep track of articles read, but I didn't read all that many in comparison to normal school-year readings (mostly because I wasn't researching for an article). As far as books go, I got through:

Augustine's Text of John, by H.A.G. Houghton
Trial of the Witnesses, by Paul DeHart
Meaning in History, by Karl Löwith
Theories of Culture, by Kathryn Tanner
The Insight of Unbelievers, by Deeana Klepper

I'm currently in the middle of Hans Blumenberg's The Legitimacy of the Modern Age and I'm loving it, probably more than anything else I've read for some time.

I began to read Frederick Beiser's German Idealism, but put it down after 200 pages or so. This was frustrating, but it was sort of my own fault. I had asked a friend about good books on Hegel, and he recommended Beiser's Hegel among others. I decided instead to read Beiser's work on idealism first, even though my friend wisely said that this was probably not a good one to start with. He was right. I could have finished it, but I would have had to put a lot of other things on the back burner, and I figured it wasn't worth it at the moment. As I said, this is frustrating for me- I'm interested in learning more about German idealism and I try to read something from the tradition as regularly as possible in order to gradually work my way into a better understanding of it. Beiser's thicker tomes will have to come later, though, as I scale back in consideration of the fact that this isn't the focus of my work and other things should probably take precedence for now.


I did some editing on a paper I wrote this past spring ("Melchizedek as Exemplar for Kingship in Twelfth Century Political Thought"), that will hopefully be submitted to a journal in the next month or two. I just need to get back to Regenstein Library to work out a few things, and then it should be about ready to go. I'll also be presenting this paper next month at the PMR conference, and hope to get some helpful feedback there.

I wrote one book review, and will be finishing up another before classes start next week. It should be easy enough to figure from my reading list which books were reviewed. I'll make a note of where they're published when that happens.

While I didn't write either of these this summer, my IJST article came out in July, and my chapter in the Ecumenical Ecclesiology volume (a reprint of an earlier article) was just published. It was a nice surprise to actually receive a complementary copy of the book from T&T Clark- I wasn't expecting that- I assumed it was more normal to not receive a free copy when all you've contributed is a chapter.

In retrospect, I would have liked to have read some more primary sources over the summer. At the same time, I did do a lot to catch up on more recent conversations through books like DeHart's and Tanner's, and this was really a necessity. I've been trying to read blogs and articles in history and philosophy as well (especially trends in intellectual history) for the same reason, and I think this interdisciplinarity has put me in a good position as I enter my next year at UChicago. I'm looking forward to going back to being a full-time student some time in the next few years and making some more substantial progress in research, but for the time being I'm trying to be content with the pace I'm keeping.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Scriptural Reasoning available in open access

I hadn't previously realized that the work of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning is available on UVA's website. Fulltext is available for the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning, as well as the Student Journal of Scriptural Reasoning. A related publication that will be of interest is the Journal of Textual Reasoning, focusing on Jewish textual interpretation.

Paul Rorem on Hugh of St. Victor

The latest volume in Oxford's Great Medieval Thinkers series has arrived at the library- Hugh of St. Victor, by Paul Rorem. Rorem teaches medieval ecclesiastical history at Princeton Seminary, and has done a lot of work in the Dionysian tradition.

I'd recommend the Great Medieval Thinkers series to anyone interested in breaking into the theology of the period. I've read Phillip Rosemann's volume on Peter Lombard and Deirdre Carabine's on John Scottus Eriugena and thought they were both quite good, although I think Rosemann's volume was a bit stronger, as it focused on presenting an historical introduction where Carabine's study was more overt in its need to argue for current applications of Eriugena's thought.

Note also that the next volume of the series will come out in December, by Jon McGinnis on Avicenna.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall Schedule at the Divinity School

I've just registered for my fall courses (we start and end late at the Divinity School), and thought I'd mention them here.

My first course is an Introduction to the Study of Religion, with James Robinson. This is the intro course that all MA students have to take. From what I understand, a single text is focused on throughout the semester, and guest professors from the Divinity School rotate throughout the semester and examine the text from their perspective; so we may get a sociologist of religion to discuss their methodological approach, followed by a theologian, followed by an ethicist, etc. I believe the text we're using is a medieval Jewish text, but I can't find listed what it is exactly. The class should be interesting. I was supposed to take it during my first semester at the Divinity School but was able to have it waived until my second year because of my part-time status.

My second course will be Pragmatism, Theology, and the Philosophy of Religions with Kevin Hector. My initial hope was to take Hector's seminar on Barth's Dogmatics, but this won't work out with my schedule and so I opted for the pragmatism course. In the end this may be better, as I'm not as familiar with the topic as I would have been with a Barth course. I'm also hoping that I'll learn a bit more about Hector's own thoughts on pragmatism, anglophone interpretations of Hegel and their implications for pneumatology, etc. We'll see, though. I'd love to get a better picture of what his constructive intentions are, but I have a sense that I'll have to wait until his books are out, as my experience with Hector is that he's very good about refraining from interjecting his own position into a lecture or discussion with wider purposes than constructive engagement. (This is a good thing, of course. Just less conducive to pinning his thoughts down for overly curious folks like myself.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Political entanglements and canonical jurisdictions... the Abkhaz Church

Although Protestant churches are often rebuked (and rebuke themselves rather self-loathingly) for disunity and rampant denominational splitting, I tend to find that disputes in Eastern Orthodoxy offer some of the most vivid pictures of the Church at its most fragmentary and fragile.

So leaders of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church have declared themselves independent of the Georgian Church. Not a huge surprise, given conflicts with Georgia last summer and earlier, as well as various related ecclesiastical disputes. The Church in Abkhazia has also unsurprisingly turned to Moscow for support in its bid for independence, although Moscow is as opposed to the idea as Georgia, supporting the canonical claims of the Georgian Church despite sympathy for Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Here is a good post on Russia's awkward position between Georgian, Abkhaz, and in the end Ukrainian ecclesiastical politics. Good reading for Westerners whose perspective on Orthodox ecclesiological thought is overly twinkly-eyed by way of romanticization (I'll refrain from naming specific books or theologians).

I'd also say quite decidedly that I'm not intending to pick sides in this fight by posting this material. If I come across as partisan for or against the Abkhaz claims... well, then re-read me and disabuse yourself of such ideas, because I'm not even going to try to wade into all of this with any sort of prescriptions.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A few items...

Other Blogs

Books & Publishers

  • Significant developments on funding Open Access by a few big research universities. Worth digesting. This stuff makes me nervous, but I'm still learning the ropes and exactly what I should be thinking. I'm concerned about the ability of non-wealthy institutions to follow suit and what sort of stratification that will create, as well as about the differences between humanities and science research, and whether grand schemes of any sort will end up hurting the humanities in the end. Some other comments on Cornell's participation in this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NYPriest.com and the aesthetic weight of some young conservatisms

I found the video below through American Papist and thought it was a striking push for the importance of vocations. NYPriest.com, and Grassroots Films, are both good examples of a pretty significant resurgence of conservative Roman Catholic culture in the U.S. lately (Grassroots also did the Catholic Vote 2008 film).

Whether or not one agrees with all of the politics or theology espoused by these groups, I think they're a welcome sign. This is quality stuff that they're putting out, it emphasizes the centrality of the mission of the Church in the world, and it defies the idea that religion of this sort is old-fashioned, outdated, or on the other hand merely a fundamentalist reflex against secular neo-liberalism. I think it exhibits what is attractive to sympathizers of Hauerwas, R.O., Communio Catholicism, and other movements that are on their face seemingly sectarian, though they are more deeply committed to the principle of living "at the heart of the world, from the center of the church."

Throughout the NYPriest website there is a bit of a focus on "heroic" aspects of priesthood that I think could arguably devolve into a Hollywood plot line rather than a real commitment to mission. But if we're serious about the stakes involved in the work of the Church, I think that an aesthetic portrayal like this is worthwhile, even granting the possible dangers of romanticizing things.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to archive and cite online material, if you must.

I just found a helpful tool.

Suzanne notes an archiving system called WebCite, where you can make a copy of material on the web in order to preserve a stable record when citing the work. The transience of online work is a real problem for academic citation, and it's one reason why I approach online publications wearily and only tend to bother with those that I deem to be more stable ventures. I'd also point out that I've run into link rot and address changes when citing important Anglican Communion documents for a paper, so it's not just a problem caused by fickle bloggers and upstart publishing fiascoes. Making use of an archive system like WebCite will be helpful in keeping your footnotes more useful to researchers down the road. I wish I had known about this earlier, but here it is for future reference.

I haven't explored the system, and I'm no expert on these things, but WebCite looks highly reputable, and the process looks straightforward. One of the webcite formats incorporates the doi system, for instance, which is what you'll see as an identifier at the top of articles in many academic journals. (the international doi system is apparently also working with Europeana to secure their digital material)

UPDATE: I've been playing around with the archiving a bit... I made an archive of a previous post of mine on the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, for instance, because this page has been cited a good bit by other blogs and at least one article. I also tried archiving a fulltext from GoogleBooks (since I've had problems with them in the past), but that unfortunately didn't work. I got the following error message from WebCite:

The caching attempt failed for the following reason: No files could be downloaded for the given URL. This is likely because
a) The URL is incorrect,
b) The site in question refuses connections by crawling robots, or
c) The site in question is inaccessible from the WebCite network
The URL is definitely correct, so most likely Google blocks this sort of thing- even though, you know, they're all about preserving information for us, and they obviously don't mind information being lifted from Blogger. I just thought I'd update with what I've learned.

Upcoming Review of Politics on William Cavanaugh

I was pleased to notice the back cover of the current issue of Review of Politics, which noted forthcoming articles that will probably be of interest to readers of this blog. There will be some discussion of William Cavanaugh's work, as well as an article by Cavanaugh himself. I don't know from the content list whether this issue is exclusively on Cavanaugh, but most of the articles are at least obviously concerned with political theology in some form or another:

Paul Rowe, "Render Unto Caesar... What? Reflections on the Work of William Cavanaugh"

William Cavanaugh, "If You Render unto God What Is God's, What Is left for Caesar?"

Michael J. Perry, "Liberal Democracy and the Right to Religious Freedom"

Allan Arkush, "Theocracy, Liberalism, and Modern Judaism"

Andrew March, "What Is Comparative Political Theory?"

Response by Farah Godrej

Be sure to look at Review of Politics 71.4, autumn 2009. I'll note it again on clavi non defixi when it's out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

De Lubac's Medieval Exegesis, v.3

The third English translation volume of Henri de Lubac's magisterial Exégèse Médiévale is out from Eerdmans. The publication date is listed as 15 July, but we only just now received it at the library (and we have a standing order with Eerdmans), so perhaps things were delayed a bit and this announcement doesn't come so late after all.

In any case, it's an important publication to note. The long-awaited volume 3 is a massive 800 page, approaching the combined page count of volumes 1 & 2. And as usual with De Lubac's historical work, about half of the study is extensive notes. This volume has chapters titled: "Berno of Reichenau", "Subjectivism and Spiritual Understanding", "A Lineage Stemming from Jerome?", "Hugh of Saint Victor", "The Victorine School", and "Joachim of Flora".

The Eerdmans website notes, "this third English volume of de Lubac's monumental Medieval Exegesis covers volume 2, part 1 of his French volume." Unfortunately I don't have any of the other English volumes or the French on hand to investigate further, and volume 3 offers nothing in the way of an introduction or a very substantial preface. From what I understand there will be 4 volumes in English; I assume then that vols. 1-2 corresponded to a 1/1 and 1/2 in the French, since the present volume apparently corresponds to a 2/1. Will (English) volume 4 cover the French 2/2, then? Is this how de Lubac's original study was divided- 2 volumes, 2 parts each? Anyone with more knowledge, please share!

Also, don't be intimidated by the size of the volume and assume that it's out of your price range. Eerdmans offers it for a substantial, but I'd say reasonable given the size, quality, and significance, $55. And Amazon offers it for $35.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A reminder on some previously noted CFP's...

The deadlines of some calls for papers are approaching, so I thought I'd bump them up to the top of the blog as a reminder to any interested parties:

Friday, September 11, 2009

A few items...

  • The Free Library of Philadelphia has announced that its central and branch libraries will be closing on October 2nd because of budgetary issues in the Pennsylvania state legislature. Their website provides information for urgent action that can be taken in contacting elected officials about the issue.
  • There has been a flurry of posting over the past few days from Mark Johnson at Thomistica.net, including online full texts, interviews, conference summaries, and information on Kalamazoo CFP's related to Thomas Aquinas.
  • Elie Weisel has a new book out, on the great medieval Jewish commentator Rashi.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is anyone interested in doing a panel for the Midwest AAR 2010 meeting?

The AAR Midwest Region (covering Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan) has information up on their 2010 meeting, to be held at Augustana College on the general theme of "Religion, Sex, and the Body".

I don't have any plans for the meeting at this point, but it struck me that it might be interesting to put together a panel proposal for submission. I've never done this sort of thing before, but the regional meetings are a good place to jump in and get involved. I presented my first conference paper at the Midwest AAR and enjoyed the experience very much- I'd love to get back there and also have the opportunity of collaborating with others.

There are no shortage of topics that a panel could look at within the conference theme... the body of Christ, nuptial mystery, eros, theology of the child, current disputes over sexuality, the incarnation, celibacy, considerations of particular theologians or recent works, violence and abuse, the imago dei... etc.

If you're in the Midwest region and this sounds like something you'd be interested in, feel free to email me (evan.f.kuehn -@- gmail.com). No need to have any firm ideas of what you would want to do (although I'd appreciate those too), just an indication of interest in a panel of some sort so I can get a sense of whether this might be something worth pursuing.

Leiter, Marinoff, and Institutional Pedigree

Brian Leiter has commented on the recent discussion surrounding Lou Marinoff's article on hiring practices at the CCNY philosophy department (see Marinoff's article here, and my response to it here). In response to general objections to Marinoff's focus on institutional pedigree in hiring, Leiter argues that "Where pedigree has substantial evidential value about the quality and character of philosophical training, and where pedigree also informs the interpretation of letters of recommendation, it would be foolish to eliminate pedigree as an important point of information in the evaluation of job candidates."

Well, fine. But most of the critiques I've read haven't been saying that pedigree should be eliminated as an important part of the application. Historiann, to whom I linked in my previous post, even argues for an increased complexity of pedigree consideration based upon subfield... the same sort of thing that Leiter advocates. But Marinoff did not speak of this sort of thing. He said:

How did we prune our field from 637 to 27? An important selection criterion was holding a Ph.D. from a good university. Members of our department earned their Ph.D.s at Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, and University of London. Additionally, City College is known as the “Harvard of the Proletariat,” with distinguished alumni that include nine Nobel Laureates, more than any other public institution in America. Our faculty members are expected to live up to this legacy.

There is a shortlist of "good universities"... not "good philosophy departments". There is a reference of "living up to this legacy", the legacy apparently amounting to four universities from whence CCNY faculty came, a corny nickname playing off of Ivy League branding, and a significant showing of international recognition and honors (not that a hire off the PhD is going to waltz in with a Nobel prize, or that non-philosophers with Nobels are obviously a clear indication of the philosophy department's abilities and strengths).

Leiter's points about the importance of pedigree are well-taken, but he's defending the wrong person in defending Marinoff. Note that Leiter's initial post on pedigree is responding to a proposal of total pedigree blindness, where one's institutional background is not even revealed. This is a much different idea than critiques of Marinoff, which are only saying that you can't reasonably have a shortlist of favored schools as a selection criterion with which to cut over 95% of job applicants. Perhaps Leiter is reading critiques that I'm not- ones that advocate total blindness to pedigree. He doesn't mention who he's been reading, and absent specifics I can't make out why he sees his point as a relevant response to the current conversation.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gotta love...

...the prizes offered by online quizzes/puzzles/drawings.

UC Press has a daily puzzle contest going on this week to win Paul Lunde's The Book of Codes. And apparently I'm today's winner. The puzzle was a 48 piece jigsaw that you maneuver with your mouse. The 10th person to email or twitter that they had finished the puzzle won the book. I assume the puzzle will be similar each day of this week.

This is, of course, a Very Monumentous Occaision, because I (like most of you, I'm sure) never win these sorts of things. I told the UC Press representative that I lost a drawing for a UPenn Press book a few weeks ago, so my loyalties are now officially with UC Press over against their Pennsylvanian friends. By way of scratching their back in return, then, I've highlighted a few UC books that are worth pursuing:

I would also highlight (though I'm not familiar with these titles... they just strike me as interesting):
  • and Is Critique Secular?, forthcoming from Talal Asad, Judith Butler, Saba Mahmood, and Wendy Brown.

UC Press also publishes the Huntington Library Quarterly, a journal focusing on literature, culture, and society in early modern Britain and America.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Documents from the International Theological Commission

Ignatius Press has published a two-volume collection of the work of the International Theological Commission. Below is the description from the publisher:

This is [...] a two-volume collection of texts and documents issued by the International Theological Commission (ITC), a body of theologians that advises the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The texts and documents of the ITC address pressing theological issues, drawing upon theological experts from around the world who represent differing branches of theology yet who share a common commitment to authentically-Catholic theological reflection.

Volume 1, 1969-1985, includes texts and documents exploring the following themes: reflections on the objectives and methods of the ITC, priestly ministry, theological pluralism, apostolic succession, Christian ethics, the relationship of theology to the Magisterium, human development and human salvation, Christian marriage, Christology, penance and reconciliation, the dignity and rights of the human person, ecclesiology, and the consciousness of Christ.

Volume 2, 1986-2007, includes texts and documents exploring the following themes: faith and inculturation, the interpretation of dogma, eschatology, God the Redeemer, Christianity and world religions, the Church and the faults of the past, the diaconal ministry, human beings as the image of God, and the hope for the salvation of unbaptized infants.

This resource looks to be essential for work on post-conciliar theology. A 1989 volume was published of ITC documents from 1969-1985, and I'm not sure how different the current edition is from the previous one... Ratzinger even wrote the forward for the previous collection as he does for this one.

I am not sure whether volume 2 includes the recent ITC statement on universal ethics and natural law, but apparently an English translation has been made... see here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A few items...

  • A helpful annotated list of Christian colleges and universities with peace studies programs.
  • Historical TheoBlogy is a great source of digitized resources in Reformation and Early Modern studies. Some new posts have gone up recently on the 16th century Reformed theologian Francois Du Jon, a 1534 lexicon, a digitization project on King Matthias I of Hungary, and a Renaissance Latin Grammar and Encyclopedia.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Theology Unplugged": Kent Lasnoski on print culture

Flipping through the latest issue of Theological Studies, I was pleased to find a short statement on the closing page written by Kent Lasnoski, PhD candidate at Marquette and assistant to the editor. "Theology Unplugged" is a three paragraph editorial of sorts, reminding us of the importance of tangible, paper-and-ink journals.
Our recent issue on globalization reminded us of the ambiguity of our cultural and technological developments in the world economy. The insights give us reason to pause and ask: What are the implications of this ambiguity for the way we do theology?

It is already a practical reality for many students that if a source is not available electronically it may as well not exist[...] A trip to the bound journals section of the library is no longer par for the course among students researching a thesis-driven article.
Lasnoski brings up two problems with the explosion of information available in digital form:

First, as the quantity of electronically accessible information increases, the section of that data any one researcher can digest, synthesize, and convert to a contribution to understanding, even over a lifetime, becomes ever narrower at an ever faster rate. Second, as searching databases continually improves finding precisely what researchers are looking for, the likelihood of reading material that touches on the question of interest, while relating to another question, decreases. Research necessarily becomes increasingly specialized and, simultaneously, increasingly parochial.
The concern of a possible future parochialism is especially worth noting, since it seems rather counter-intuitive. The point of web 2.0 has been largely one of democratization, but it is worthwhile to question 1) how the inner contradictions inherent in any such project might lead us away from its worthy goals, and 2) whether older research cultures really were as parochial as they are commonly assumed to be.

During a seminar I attended this past spring, our professor Vasileios Syros made much the same point when he lamented how horribly isolated we University of Chicago students could be. Always concentrating on our own research projects or planted in front of a computer accessing digital records, he found that there was very little conversation and sharing of ideas amongst faculty and students. These sorts of chance encounters, old-fashioned shelf browsings, and meeting of minds are what breed productive collaborations.

This isn't to dismiss the benefits of online access to research or sophisticated search technologies; of course we need more of this. But Lasnoski's point is that in developing these technologies we should be careful not to lose what is unique about the physical possibilities of "Theology Unplugged".

Google, Harvard, & open access

The month of September has started off with two very big pieces of news on open access.

  • The settlement over Google Books copyright issues is moving towards the deadline for participants in the class action suit to opt out of the program. Inside Higher Ed links to many helpful documents submitted for consideration by parties on both sides of the issue.

All of these changes are very complex, and it's worth reading up on them further. I have a long way to go in getting a handle of what exactly is at stake, and of the relative merits of different proposals. My sensibilities are towards reform of how the research community functions, and I'm interested in further access of the sort that these initiatives are proposing. At the same time I remain rather cautious and conservative about what needs to be done- I'm much more comfortable with the Green OA model than the Gold OA, for instance, and I also think that it's quite important to avoid too much focus on digitized access to information... the discipline of attentiveness to print culture shouldn't be lost in an unmeasured infatuation with access to new sources.

Hopefully these resources will help others to pick apart the issue. Please leave comments or questions as you have them and we can move one another along. I'll actually shift back to the importance of print for my next post, but these sorts of conversations will be ongoing, I'm sure.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Latest issue of Theological Studies is out...

The September issue of Theological Studies is out, although the contents haven't reached the website yet.

Jerome A. Miller, "Wound Made Fountain: Toward a Theology of Redemption"

Cyril Orji, "Lonergan and Pannenberg's Methodologies: A Critical Examination"

Roger Haight and James Nieman, "On the Dynamic Relation between Ecclesiology and Congregational Studies"

George E. Democopoulos, "Gregory the Great and the Sixth-Century Dispute over the Ecumenical Title"

Hyun-Chul Cho, "Interconnectedness and Intrinsic Value as Ecological Principles of the World: An Appropriation of Karl Rahner's Evolutionary Christology"

Daniel G. Groody, "Crossing the Divide: Foundations ofa Theology of Migration and Refugees"

Michael L. Cook, "The African Experience of Jesus"

Thoughts on Lou Marinoff's article on faculty hiring

Lou Marinoff's recent article "Inside a Search" has received a good deal of attention over the past few days. I read the article with some interest, and I approached it how I approach most articles like this... as a good exercise in bracing myself for the next few years on the academic track. Granted, not all hiring searches will be as brutal as the one he describes, but I figure the more I prepare myself for that eventuality, the better I'll deal with any other that comes along.

I had a few qualms with what Marinoff had written, mostly relating to some issues that I have with philosophy in the academy more generally (see here, for instance). But it was an interesting read. Also interesting is the commentary that has come out from other bloggers, specifically on the following section of Marinoff's article:
How did we prune our field from 637 to 27? An important selection criterion was holding a Ph.D. from a good university. Members of our department earned their Ph.D.s at Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, and University of London. Additionally, City College is known as the “Harvard of the Proletariat,” with distinguished alumni that include nine Nobel Laureates, more than any other public institution in America. Our faculty members are expected to live up to this legacy.
Historiann takes him to task for this old-boy inbreeding mentality, and rightly so. She points out a fact much better understood in history departments... and I think better understood in theology too, although we certainly have our hang-ups about which schools are the gold standard... that certain schools are better equipped for certain subfields, schools of thought, or methodologies. Tim Lacy at U.S. Intellectual History also discusses the matter, pointing out that indicators like research and teaching are oddly left to the side in this narrative (thanks also to Tim for alerting me to Historiann, with whom I wasn't previously familiar).

Not being familiar with Lou Marinoff, I looked him up and found some interesting results. Apparently he is no stranger to controversial run-ins, with the psychiatric and psychological community also critical of some of his work. Here is an... interesting... piece from Marinoff on some of the affirmative action issues brought up by Historiann, where he seems oddly caught-up with sporting and competition, postmodern PC Orwellianism be damned! A full paragraph is devoted to lamenting the handing out of identical ribbons to all participants in a grade school footrace. Seriously. Complete with the monikers "Sally" and "Jane".

...which brings me to his website, where Lou showcases lots of trophies that he won in Canadian table hockey championships. By the time I got there I wasn't especially surprised at the competitive complex he evinced.

I'd also add that the critiques of Tim Lacy and Historiann are instructive for me personally. As a grad student I've certainly taken the cue of articles like this and realized that it's probably smart for me to shoot for a certain narrow band of prestigious universities for my degree. This is, in large part, why I'm at UChicago right now rather than elsewhere. I don't think this is a bad thing- prestige comes for a reason, and one usually isn't going to go wrong by attending a school that is deemed to be elite. HarvardYalePrinceton (as Historiann calls it), is no more bad because it is elite than WheatonCalvinGordon is bad because they're evangelical. But the practice of only preferencing a highly selective band of schools is a significant failure of higher education that needs to stop. The worst stories I've heard of this are in philosophy, but it certainly happens in theology as well.

On a lighter note, I also got a kick out of the CCNY pretentiousness in the article. Apparently they call themselves the "Harvard of the Proletariat". For those who don't know, it's also commonly heard at Wheaton that we're the "Harvard of Evanglelicalism". I was pleased to see that we aren't the only school with embarrassingly stupid nicknames attempting to ride the coattails of the Ivies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

De Deo Trino: pars dogmatica

Bernard Lonergan's 1964 lectures given at the Gregorian University on the doctrine of the Trinity have until recently not been available in English. Now the complete work is out from the University of Toronto Press.

Just released as volume 11 in the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, the pars dogmatica is actually the first of two parts in his lengthy work on the Trinity. The pars systematica, which develops the psychological analogy, was already published in 2006 as volume 12 of the series.

An important study on journals in the humanities and social sciences

Inside HigherEd points to a very important report by the National Humanities Alliance on the cost of flagship journals in the humanities and social sciences. The one-liner that's being picked up is that these journals run costs averaging $526/page. While this is an attention-getter (like talk of the Pentagon spending $600 on a toilet seat), there is much more of importance in the report, and reading that one blurb out of context won't help very much in getting a sense of what else is being said.

I'm in the middle of it now, and will have comments following before too long. There are some important points about the sustainability of open access in the report, as well as some comments on business philosophy for the various scholarly associations.

Also, some interesting facts from the report (p.8):

Numbers of journals published: From 1700 to the present day growth in active journal titles has been consistently about 3.5% despite hugely varying socioeconomic and technical regimes in scholarship over the last three hundred years. In July 2008, 21,787 peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific journals were in publication, compared with 19,681 in 2005 and 17,981 in March 2003. As the output of articles from the research community increases, new journals are spawned; an increase of around 100 new peer-reviewed papers a year worldwide results in the launch of a new journal.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

From the cataloger's desk...

Some very wonderful looking books are coming out , and I'm only depressed that classes are beginning soon, leaving me with no time to get through them. The following three strike me as especially worthy of note.

Analytic Theology: new essays in the philosophy of theology, ed. Oliver Crisp and Michael Rae (OUP 2009)
This book has received a good deal of press already, and the essays look very promising. I've read through a bit of Sarah Coakley's contribution, where she questions the use of Teresa of Avila by analytic philosophers of religion and offers some incisive thoughts on why mystical and apophatic theology is so popular in certain philosophies lately.

The Eyes of Faith: the sense of the faithful and the church's reception of revelation, Ormond Rush (CUA 2009)
I had not heard of this book until it landed on my desk, and I wish I had. Rush examines the concept of sensus fidelium, or sense of the faithful, with sections on the Holy Spirit, the norms of tradition and scripture, and the work of theology in the Church. Those who were interested in the problems raised by my recent article on fullness of the Spirit and of catholicity would do well to look into this book. The question of the sense of the faithful in the life of the Church is one that I did not tackle (I'm beginning to wonder if this was a significant mistake, although I suppose one can't say everything in one paper), and it is an important one when considering ecclesiological problems today.

Paths Not Taken: fates of theology from Luther to Leibniz, by Paul R. Hinlicky (Eerdmans 2009)
Hinlicky is a Lutheran theologian at Roanoke College in Virginia and Comenius University in Slovakia. The current book looks to be a fascinating genealogy of modern theology from Luther through the various permutations of his dogmatic legacy in the Enlightenment. Hinlicky then considers Pannenberg, Jüngel, and Jenson as he charts a way forward for contemporary Lutheran theological work.