Maybe There’s a Little Bit of Natural Religion?


  1. The human mind detects patterns in the natural world.
    The human mind is a part of and proceeds from the natural world.
    Therefore, patterns exist in the natural world.

  2. Patterns exist in the natural world.
    The human mind perceives patterns in the natural world.
    The human mind is part of and proceeds from the natural world.
    Therefore, the human mind is the natural world reflecting on its own patterns.

  3. Therefore, anthropomorphism is not a fallacy.

  4. A part is not equal to a whole.
    The whole cannot be reduced to a part.
    Therefore, the relationship between part and whole need not be mutually exhaustive.

My Blakean Life

I have been lax in celebrating William Blake’s birthday, which passed by recently, on Nov. 28th. A Londoner almost all of his life, he was born in 1757 and died in 1827, just short of his 70th birthday. He’s best known for The Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and within that, the poem “The Tyger,” and also for an excerpt from his long poem Milton a Poem which was set to music by Hubert Parry in a piece called “Jerusalem” (And did those feet…), a composition used as a school song for many schools around the world also famously covered by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Selections from “Auguries of Innocence” are found in the Tomb Raider movies, his art in the Hannibal Lecter movies, and his poems are probably used for lyrics by contemporary musicians more than any other poet from any time. There are book-length lists of Blake poems set to music. 

I didn’t learn about Blake in school, however — I learned of him when I heard the song “William Blake,” which was written by Terry Scott Taylor for the band Daniel Amos on their Vox Humana album. Hearing that song was enough to get me to rush to — remember these? — a B. Dalton Bookseller, where I picked up a copy of the Viking Portable Blake. That started me on a journey that took me through graduate school, a dissertation, my first book, and then two Rock and Romanticism books. But it was all about music and literature from the beginning, not just the stuff they make you read in school, as it was for Blake himself, who originally sang many of those poems at dinner parties to his own original musical compositions. He was said to have a good singing voice, and scholars of music notated his compositions at the time, though those are lost to us now. Roy Starling was my first instructor in Romanticism, and he made Romantic poetry come alive for me, as he did all the literature he taught to all of his students at the college and high school levels. 

I chose Blake because I wanted a subject of study that I could attend to for twenty years without getting bored, and he has not disappointed. In addition to my own writing about Blake, I was also privileged to work with Michael Phillips on three occasions for Blake printmaking demonstrations, one of these resulting in an exhibit at Rollins College and another in an exhibit curated by Lee Fearnside that consisted of contemporary artists inspired by Blake alongside Phillips’s own reproductions of Blake’s work through his reproduction of his printmaking methods. 

And Blake has informed and inspired my own creative work — following in his footsteps I’m working on my own reworking of Milton’s Paradise Lost as a steampunk western as well as assorted collections of my own poetry. We will see where it all leads, but I remain grateful for what Blake has meant to me.

I should end this with Blake’s own words… 

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History

I’m pleased to announce that Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History was made available for purchase by Lexington Books, the academic imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, in April of 2019. The featured image above by photographer Rebekah Rovira is the full image used for the cover — you can view actual cover on this post. Many thanks to the contributors who stuck with this project for so long. Chapters include:

Introduction
— by James Rovira
1. Democracy as Context for Theory: Plato and Derrida as Readers of Socrates
— by James Rovira
2. Historian, Forgive Us: Study of the Past as Hegel’s Methodology of Faith
— by Aglaia Maretta Venters
3. Karl Marx: The End of the Enlightenment
— by Eric Hood
4. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Toward a Dialectical Pragmatism
— by Steve Wexler
5. Robert Penn Warren: Poetry, Racism, and the Burden of History
— by Cassandra Falke
6. Louise Rosenblatt: The Reader, Democracy, and the Ethics of Reading
— by Meredith N. Sinclair
7. Aesthetic Theory: From Adorno to Cultural History
— by Philip Goldstein
8. Judith Butler: A Livable Life
— by Darcie Rives-East
9. Networking the Great Outdoors: Object-Oriented Ontology and the Digital Humanities
— by Roger Whitson

2018: My Year of the Edited Anthology

Yes, blatant self-promotion here: I have a few publications coming out this year, and they’re edited anthologies, either my own or my contributions of chapters. I don’t feel too bad writing about it, as I love doing this work, so I love talking about it. But I also love hearing other people talk about the work that they’re doing, and I like promoting the work of others — I love it when people I’m connected to produce good things, and I like taking about that too.

There’s also a bit of an ethical imperative behind book promotion: if a publisher invests in your work by publishing it, you should feel obligated to promote it — to help the publisher recover that investment. On a side note, you can trust me when I say there is no real money in almost all academic publishing for the authors of these works, at least not in terms of direct compensation for the publication. I got one check a year for three years for my first book, Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety (Continuum/Bloomsbury 2010). Each check was big enough to take my wife out to dinner to an Olive Garden / Red Lobster kind of restaurant, but it wouldn’t cover the sitter too. It sold about the average number of copies for an academic book, 300-350. It’s listed in over 1000 libraries around the world, but shared databases mean that libraries don’t have to own their own copy of a book to have access to it.

But best of all, because these are all edited anthologies, I’m not only promoting my work, but the work of colleagues around the world. So what I’m really saying here is, “check out this interesting work that we’ve all come together to do.” Publications appear in the order of their release.

Rock and Romanticism: Blake and Wordsworth, Book Cover
Taylor Fickes, cover photo. Fickes Photo.

Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington Books, February 2018), edited by James Rovira. Check out the book page to see descriptions of each chapter, lists of musical works discussed, lists of literary works discussed, and links to iTunes playlists associated with each chapter. Most of the music covered in this volume falls in the category of classic rock or folk/roots/country rock (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Rush, U2, Blackberry Smoke), but we have chapters engaging acts like Lil Wayne and the 1960s’ Italian pop singer Piero Ciampi. Why I love writing about music.

 

 

 

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Kierkegaard, Literature, and the Arts (Northwestern UP, February 2018), edited by Eric Ziolkowski. Great study of the subject under discussion edited by a leading Kierkegaard scholar — not to mention the contributor list, which is almost a who’s who of Kierkegaard scholarship. I was fortunate to contribute chapter 12, “The Moravian Origins of Kierkegaard’s and Blake’s Socratic Literature.”

 

 

 

 

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Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social, Cultural and Geopolitical Domains (McFarland, March 2018), edited by Julian C. Chambliss, Bill L. Svitavsky, and Daniel Fandino. I was privileged to contribute “Silly Love Songs, Gender, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The table of contents isn’t available yet.

 

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Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2018), edited by James Rovira. Yes, it’s a second rock and Romanticism book released in the same year, but it’s completely different from the first with its focus on the Gothic. I’ve built a book page for this one too, which should go live either mid to late March. The book page will also have chapter descriptions, links to the music and literature under discussion, and links to iTunes and Spotify playlists. This anthology takes the thesis stated in the previous Rock and Romanticism book then narrows and focuses it upon the Gothic. After an initial discussion of Milton, Shelley, and the Rolling Stones’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” chapters focus on music from the New Romantics and the Pretenders onward, covering a variety of acts: post-punk, goth/emo, Eminem, and metal bands.

In development: Interpretation: Theory: History (under contract with Lexington Books). Really interesting project in which contributors examine a variety of reading practices from Plato to Object Oriented Ontology against their historical backgrounds to establish a dialectic between our reading practices and their social milieus. I hope to send a first full draft to the publisher by the end of March.

Active CFPs:

The next two projects are in very early stages of development and continue to narrow and focus my study of rock and Romanticism:

Rock and Romanticism: The David Bowie Edition (will probably be retitled David Bowie and Romanticism).

Women in Rock: Women in Romanticism

 

Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress – The Washington Post

It’s nice to feel a little bit proud this time of being raised Catholic.

via Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress – The Washington Post.

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