My Name is Brad, & I Love Modernist Literature

The other day a reader & commenter on AUFS who is participating in our email discussion group on William Gass’ The Tunnel emailed to ask me about my favorite novels. It took me a while to respond, but this wasn’t for lack of reflection. It’s a common enough question (not just for me, but when you’re amongst well-read people in general), but one I continue to take seriously. I find it difficult to answer not because I’m worried what others might think of my choices. I can’t remember the last time I cared, quite honestly. The problem, such as it is, is that I’m always certain that any such list will simply emerge out of whatever state of mind or fickle disposition I find myself at any given moment or season. Ask me again in a month and the list could be completely different. That’s just my hunch, anyway — it’s not as though the question is so common that I’ve had the opportunity to experiment. My hope, of course, is that there would be some consistency. So, in response to my correspondent and reading partner, I  opted for a list that is perhaps less my favorite novels, and more what I hope are my favorite novels.  Read the rest of this entry »

Influential Books: AUFS For the Uninitiated 5

This post is different from those of my comrades, because my studies have fallen more strictly within theological lines. Also, I want to note that I am here sharing, in a more personal manner, about books that have influenced how I do theology, rather than focusing on “positions” I hold (as some of the others have in fact done).

The first significantly influential book I read, as a sophomore in undergrad, was John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus. Many other books could have had a similar effect on me, but it was Yoder’s chapter entitled, “Justification by Grace Through Faith,” which destroyed my individualistic reading of the Christian tradition. With the illumination of the social nature of soteriology (reconciliation), Yoder also articulated my pacifist leanings, and pushed me over the edge into what I know as Christological pacifism (Incidentally, I did not grow up with pacifist tendencies. However, with a couple of years of intense study of scripture behind me, when 9/11 happened I somehow knew intuitively that I was against any response other than enemy-love, even though I had yet to rigorously think the issue through). Read the rest of this entry »

Influential Books: AUFS for the Uninitiated 4

Dan articulates well my own dilemma as I began the process of reflecting on influential books. Because I’ve largely been self-taught, no matter what the CV says, the evolution of and occasional allegiances to ideas has always been more important to me than their individual champions. That, and my notoriously bad memory has long coupled with my miserly tendency rarely to buy books (preferring instead the amazing library access I’ve, until recently, enjoyed), making it all the more difficult now to recall specific titles.

My larger projects are, I think it is safe to say, peculiar. I have been told by friends that somebody came to my research center in Glasgow a year or so after I moved back to the States and presented a paper on some aspect related to that wonderfully vague topic “Herman Melville and religion.” It was mentioned to him at some point that I, too, had recently completed a thesis on that very subject, to which he asked a polite question along the lines of, “Oh, so was he looking at how religion has informed some of Melville’s ideas?” Allegedly, my supervisor responded, “No, that would make far too much sense for Brad.” Well, quite. Read the rest of this entry »

Influential Books: AUFS for the Uninitiated 3

 
When Adam asked me to do this, I was excited to go ahead with it.  When I started thinking about books that heavily influenced me, however, it quickly became clear to me that I had a tendency not to think in terms of “books.”  I’m not sure I know exactly what, then, I think in terms of, perhaps “ideas” or “problems,” it would be best to say.  So what I’ve tried to do is name books that have functioned as shifting points in my patterns of thinking — books, that is, that have helped me solve problems, or that have helped me discover new, better problems (which is probably better).  As an aside, I should say that the only book that really functioned as a directly affirmative experience, in my memory, is one that Anthony already mentioned: Goodchild’s Capitalism and Religion.  Reading it, I had the intuition that yes, this is exactly how I think of the possible convergence of immanence and the theory of religion.
 
In any case, the first book I’d name is by Derrida, the one translated as Speech and Phenomena, with the essay “Différance” appended. 

Influential Books: AUFS for the Uninitiated 2

Following in Anthony’s footsteps, I too will provide a few books that seem to me to have been particularly formative. Like Anthony, I find that many of these books seem to be from an “early” stage of my graduate work, but I also notice that a few of them tend to be books that I used as reading texts for foreign language study — something that forced me to slow down and in a way brutally imposed those texts on me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Influential Books: AUFS for the Uninitiated

Recently, following Adam’s lead, we all had a discussion taking stock of where AUFS has been and where it should go. As a forum and platform to share ideas and have discussions with colleagues, both younger and older, when we physically can’t, AUFS has been invaluable and I’m glad to be a part of it. Colin suggested, in the midst of the discussion, that the main page authors describe their most influential books as a way of helping those who feel uninitiated find a way into what we tend to write about here. So, what follows below is my list with some comments on each book. Read the rest of this entry »

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