Category Archives: Collection Spotlight

Spotlight on Faculty Scholarship

A selection of the recent faculty monographs. See our Facebook and Google+ pages for more photos from this event.

A selection of the recent faculty monographs. See our Facebook and Google+ pages for more photos from this event.

On November 15, the Library inaugurated what it hopes will become a long-standing tradition on campus: a special event to honor faculty authors and formally induct their scholarship into the Library collection.

As this was our first time holding such an event, we included works published from January 2014 through May 2016. The numbers are impressive: 33 books or book chapters by 36 authors, as well as scholarly articles by 49 authors. A total of 82 members of the faculty were honored.

In addition to recognizing all the recent faculty authors, our event featured book talks by two of them: Dr. Joseph Bucci from the College of Arts & Sciences gave an overview of his book Redemptive Leadership: Offering Second Chances as a Value-Added Management Practice, and Dr. Diane Chandler, from the School of Divinity presented some of the main themes in her monograph, Christian Spiritual Formation: An Integrated Approach for Personal and Relational Wholeness.

At the end of the book talks, all monograph authors were invited to inscribe the Library’s copies of their works, and article authors received a special bookmark with the title and publication of their work. In April 2017, we will hold our second Spotlight on Faculty Scholarship to honor faculty publication beginning with June 2016.

Photos from this event may be viewed on our Facebook and Google+ pages.

The Encyclopedia of Christian Education

by Sandra Yaegle, Head of Public Services

The Library has just acquired an important new encyclopedia from Rowman & Littlefield. The Encyclopedia of Christian Education contains over 1,200 entries by 400 contributors from 75 countries. The three-volume work covers a vast range of topics, including:

  • History spanning the early Church to the present.
  • Denominational and institutional profiles.
  • Intellectual traditions in Christian education.
  • Biblical and theological frameworks, curricula, missions, adolescent and higher education, theological training, and Christian pedagogy.
  • Biographies of distinguished Christian educators.

One noteworthy detail is that over nine of the contributors are affiliated with Regent University, either as current faculty, former faculty, or alumni. This work exemplifies the high level of scholarship produced at Regent.

The Encyclopedia of Christian Education is available from the Library in both print and online formats.

Collection Spotlight: Give War and Peace a Chance, by Andrew D. Kaufman

Reviewed by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian

“To love life is to love God. Harder and more blessed than all else is to love this life in one’s
sufferings, in undeserved sufferings.” (from Pierre Bezukhov’s dream in War and Peace)

Something must be in the air. In the past two years, three journalists and scholars have written books with the intention of convincing readers to tackle what are perhaps the three most formidable novels of the nineteenth century: Moby Dick1, Middlemarch2, and War and Peace3. The common thread in this approach to criticism is that reading great works of literature is not an exercise in self-abnegation, but a journey of discovery, and an enjoyable one at that.

The most recent of these worthy efforts is Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times, by Andrew Kaufman. Kaufman is Lecturer in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia. In 2009, he served as a sort of “scholar in residence” for Regent’s Big Read, conducting workshops and delivering the culminating lecture of the Library’s Tolstoy festival.

Give War and Peace a Chance comes three years after Kaufman’s scholarly monograph Understanding Tolstoy and is the fruit of the author’s desire to reach a wider readership. The book is quite a hybrid work, weaving elements of biography, critical analysis, philosophy, and memoir. In twelve chapters, Kaufman takes us on an excursion through the fundamental elements that form our lives, such as happiness, love, family, and death. He explains how these themes operated in Tolstoy’s life and how he gave expression to them in War and Peace.

Along the way, Kaufman also shares episodes from his own life to illustrate how works like War and Peace help us make sense of lives. Some readers might object to the author including his personal story into a book on Tolstoy, but for my part, Kaufman’s accounts of falling in love as a student with Natasha Rostova, or his grief as an adult at the death of a beloved kitten, illustrate the dual refraction that takes place when we read literature. Our temperament and past experiences combine to form our interpretation of a work, but books like War and Peace ultimately change us by enhancing our understanding of ourselves and compassion for others.

At the end of the introduction, Kaufman quotes Tolstoy’s explanation, written during the composition of War and Peace, of his philosophy of art: “The goal of the artist is not to solve a question irrefutably, but to force people to love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations.” These words also appear movingly in Kaufman’s dedication of the book to his wife and son and encapsulate what he considers to be the ultimate reward awaiting readers who give War and Peace a chance.

___________________________________

1Nathaniel Philbrick, Why Read Moby-Dick? (New York: Penguin, 2013).

2Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch (New York: Crown, 2014).

3Andrew D. Kaufman, Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014).

Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible

poiPen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible, by Robert Alter
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010

Reviewed by Dr. Carrie White

Directly or indirectly, the thoughts, actions, and lives of generations of Americans have been influenced by the Bible. Many of the laws, customs, and traditions of American society are based on Scriptural tenets. Robert Alter, in Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible, suggests that the Bible, specifically the 1611 King James translation, has also affected the literary styles of American authors. Alter examines “how the language of the King James Version is worked into the texture of the writing, making possible a kind of strong prose that would not have existed otherwise.”

Alter believes, and I agree, that emphasis on style is lost in today’s world for several reasons: first, because we read less, watch television more, and write primarily in texts and to-do lists; second, because the line between popular and literary prose has become blurred; third, because today’s critics do not have the language or the experience to argue convincingly about style; fourth, because literary criticism focuses on discourse and ideology; and finally, because novels are comprised of many different aspects, including “events, individual character, relationships, institutions, social forces, historical movements, [and] material culture,” all of which marginalize discussions of style. Alter says that today, “the practice of reading the Bible aloud, of reading the Bible at all, and of memorizing passages from the Bible has drastically diminished.” Nevertheless, because of its omnipresence and overreaching influence in early American society, not only have the stylistic particularities of the KJV lived on, but novelists, wittingly or unwittingly, have used its resources “to fashion different versions of a distinctive American style for prose fiction.”

Alter primarily uses Melville’s Moby Dick, Faulkner’s Absalom Absalom, Bellow’s Seize the Day, and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to prove his thesis. Melville begins the American tradition “of violating linguistic decorum with the greatest gusto” by creating “a language for the novel out of violently heterogeneous elements,” namely Milton, Shakespeare, colloquial Yankee diction, and the KJV. Alter sees the KJV’s influence in Melville’s use both of monosyllabic, Anglo-Saxon words and of parataxis, the stringing together of parallel phrases with the word “and.” Alter gives the language used to describe Rebekah at the well as an example of both stylistic expressions: “And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels” (Genesis 24:20). Next, although the study concerns style and not content, Alter discusses the Biblical allusions and parallels in Absalom, Absalom. His argument about style boils down to a list of words and phrases, for instance, “dust and clay” and “flesh and blood, flesh and bones,” that Faulkner uses in ways reminiscent of the KJV. Finally, Alter says that Bellow’s and Hemingway’s habit of presenting “narrative data in ways that allow them to speak for themselves, without a sense of elaborate literary mediation, without an obtrusive feeling of language calling attention to itself” also derives from the KJV. Both Hemingway and Bellow use parataxis, with its “refusal to spell out causal connections, to interpret the reported narrative data” and with its avoidance of characters’ feelings in ways similar to the KJV. He finishes the book with briefer discussions of Marilynne Robinson and Cormac McCarthy.

Alter’s study shows an impressive facility with the material. His analyses of individual passages in all the texts are quite detailed. However, at times the text seems to apologize for its thesis: “Perhaps Hemingway would have devised this kind of style without having read a word of the Bible”; and “I do not mean to claim that [Bellow] was consciously imitating the Bible in this project but simply that he had internalized something of its dignified, even stark, simplicity of diction”; and “Faulkner’s deep engagement in the Bible . . . is well known, but whether it impinged on the extravagantly idiosyncratic texture of his writing is not altogether clear.” Also, in several sections, Alter appears to conflate the Bible in general with the KJV in particular; some of his points are not specific to the KJV and could apply to any translation of the Bible, although he specifically sets out to prove the influence of the KJV.

Despite these reservations, the study is interesting, and leaves the reader with much to ponder about stylistic influence—indeed, about influence in general. For instance, although most of the authors discussed in Pen of Iron use the language of the Bible to subvert the lessons of the Bible, the Bible nevertheless shaped their “distinctly American constructions of reality” because of its prominence in early American society. In other words, these writers absorbed the Bible’s worldview, even if they did not adopt it. Extrapolating from this conclusion makes contemporary society’s ignorance of and apathy towards Scripture all the more frightening: People can’t absorb something—whether to accept or reject—if it’s not a part of their lives.

Dr. Carrie White is Associate Professor of English and Communication Arts in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Collection Spotlight — Style

Style
by F. L. Lucas. (Petersfield, Hampshire, Great Britain: Harriman House, 2012), 263 pages, ISBN 978-0-85719-187-8

Reviewed by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian

“I would say to [William] Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: ‘Read over your compositions and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.'”—Samuel Johnson

In June 2011, the New Criterion published a review by Joseph Epstein of Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One.1 Finding not a single thing to commend Professor Fish’s book, Epstein, by way of comparison, turned to a better guide, Style, by F. L. Lucas (1894 – 1967), originally published in 1955 and out of print since 1974. According to Epstein, Lucas “wrote the best book on prose composition for the not-so-simple reason that, in the modern era, he was the smartest, most cultivated man to turn his energies to the task.” Epstein’s accolade apparently awakened considerable interest in Lucas’s book, with the happy result that in 2012, Style was again in print in a high-quality paperback edition.

Style is not a guidebook, and it cannot be perused for writing tips. Written towards the end of his life, Lucas’s book is an aesthetic and even moral testament by one of the most distinguished scholars and men of letters of his generation.

The idea at the center of Style is that character is the foundation of good writing. “Therefore, if you wish your writing to seem good, your character must seem at least partly so. And since in the long run deception is likely to be found out, your character had better not only seem good, but be it … Authors may sell their books, but they give themselves away.” Now for a modern, secular audience, this is a radical, even subversive idea, but Lucas is relentless in defending his thesis, bringing in, among many others, Aristotle (“To carry conviction, a speaker needs three qualities … good sense, good character, and good will towards his hearers”) and Socrates (“As a man is, so is his speech”).2

If character is the foundation of style, what moral qualities of authors are revealed in their writing? Lucas devotes a chapter each to six:

  1. Clarity
  2. Brevity and Variety
  3. Urbanity and Simplicity
  4. Good Humor and Gaiety
  5. Good Sense and Sincerity
  6. Good Health and Vitality

What makes Style so lively and enjoyable is the combination of Lucas’s graceful erudition (in this, he resembles his contemporary, C.S. Lewis) and his examples from literature, culled from a lifetime of reading. Here to give some flavor of his thought are three examples:

  1. On Clarity: “…in the first century of the Roman Empire, Quintilian mocks at the obscurantism fashionable in his day: ‘We think ourselves geniuses if it takes genius to understand us.’”
  2. On Brevity: After giving several examples of classical haiku, including the exquisite “A butterfly sleeps on the village bell,” Lucas muses, “A Japanese writer in this form, contemporary with Milton, Yasuhara Teishitsu, for the sake of posterity destroyed all his poems but three. There was brevity indeed!”
  3. On Humor: Gibbon on Gordian II (c. 192 – c. 238): “His manners were less pure, but his character was equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested to the variety of his inclinations; and from the productions he left behind him, it appears that both the one and the other were designed for use rather than ostentation.”

Lucas is not a museum curator, dusting marble statues for our admiration. He is a reader, fully engaged with the authors he is reading. When Swift, for example, writes “Proper words in proper places makes the true definition of style,” we lesser readers would consider this an epigram to commit to memory. But Lucas will have none of it: “One might as well define good talk as proper remarks in proper places; or the good life as proper conduct on proper occasions.”

For anyone who takes words seriously and wishes to write (or read) better, I can think of two additional reasons to commend this book. The first is that an occasional scrubbing-down regarding our pretensions to wide-reading and culture is good for all of us. To return to character, Lucas writes, “It is, I believe, personality above all that sets Virgil and Horace higher than Catullus and Ovid: Chaucer than Dryden; Shakespeare than his contemporaries.” As Joseph Epstein remarks about a similar judgment, “Pause a moment to consider the wide reading required to have written that last sentence.” The second reason is that, like C.S. Lewis, Lucas is a most amiable companion who shares hard-won learning lightly and without pretense. Also like Lewis, he is a scholar who views wisdom as the true purpose of learning:

“It is unlikely that many of us will be famous, or even remembered. But not less important than the brilliant few that lead a nation or a literature to fresh achievements, are the unknown many whose patient efforts keep the world from running backward; who guard and maintain the ancient values, even if they do not conquer new; whose inconspicuous triumph it is to pass on what they have inherited from their faiths, unimpaired and undiminished, to their sons. Enough, for almost all of us, if we can hand on the torch, and not let it down; content to win the affection, if it may be, of a few who know us, and to be forgotten, when they in their turn have vanished. The destiny of mankind is not wholly governed by its ‘stars.’”

____________________________________

1Joseph Epstein, “Heavy Sentences,” The New Criterion 29, no. 10 (June 2011): 4-8. Available from Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.

2Cf. Luke 6:45:  “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”