Site Search:

Fall Meeting 2011

Nov 4-5, 2011

Theological Aesthetics

Tucson Room at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), Berkeley, California


Friday, Nov 4
2-5 pm - Paper Session
5-7 pm - Business Meeting, Dinner (Cost = $25, RSVP)
7:30-9 pm - Public Lecture, Maeve L Heaney, V.D.M.F. (SCU/JST, Bannan Fellow)
"Moving Grace: Beauty's Trace in Music"

Saturday, Nov 5
9:30–10 am - Continental Breakfast
10 am-noon - Paper Session


Former PCTS member Alejandro Garcia-Rivera describes theological aesthetics in A Wounded Innocence (Liturgical Press, 2003, p. xi):

[A] theology of art calls for a new (actually, very old) way of doing theology. A theological method proper to a theology of art tends toward synthesis, putting things together, rather than analysis, taking things apart. A theology of art ought to understand the whole rather than the parts. Moreover, it ought to bring insight into the human condition rather than philosophical clarity as to the nature of art. Insight into the human condition means wrestling with the problem of suffering. Art, after all, does not take place in some isolated place away from the ordinary cares of the world but in the midst of the garden of good and evil.

Paper Session - Friday, Nov 4, 2-5 pm

Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu (Loyola Marymount University)

"Poetic Speech and Prophetic Action in García Lorca" ()
Respondent is Alicia Vargas, PLTS

This paper explores a new English translation of Federico García Lorca’s 1929 poem Cry Toward Rome (From the Tower of the Chrysler Building) written during his momentous visit to New York in 1929-1930.  Approached through atheological aesthetics lens, the paper proposes a new interpretation of Lorca as a proto-liberation theologian.   In this poem as in his life García Lorca unites the aesthetics of poetic prophetic speech to the ethics of prophetic action in a distinctly and self-consciously Christian key.

Malcolm Young (Christ Episcopal Church in Los Altos)

"Architect Christopher Alexander’s Living World and the Theology of Jonathan Edwards" ()
Respondent is Mark Graves

The twentieth century Berkeley architect and professor Christopher Alexander uses religious language both to explain why some modern buildings seem so dehumanizing, and as a tool for making good decisions about the future of our built world. This paper compares his claims about the presence of God in nature with the conclusions of the eighteenth-century puritan Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).

Paper Session - Saturday, Nov 5, 10 am-noon

Elaine Belz (GTU)

"The Poet Among Ruins" ()
Respondent is Anselm Ramelow, DSPT

This paper examines Maritain's concept of poetic intuition and his distinction between poet and artist to look at photography of modern ruins.

Peter Doebler (GTU)

"Just Fooling Around: Madness, Folly, and Artistic Creativity" ()
Respondent is Christopher Renz, DSPT

Ever since at least Plato a connection between the artist and madness has been made. However, in recent centuries this has focused especially on psychological disorders. While such studies are not unimportant, overemphasis on this can lead to a one-sided, rather dark view of a self-absorbed artistic “genius.” Ultimately this distracts from the real subject of art, which is the diverse beauty of the world around us. This paper will argue that a better way to think of the artist is not in terms of madness but in terms of foolishness. The artist’s closest analog is not the mad person but the fool. In fact, the artist is not merely like a fool but the artist is a fool.

The paper is divided in three parts. First, three different thinkers who all discuss the artist as mad are considered, Jacques Maritain, Plato, and Schopenhauer. For all three, the association of creativity with literal madness is only an analogy and the two have no direct connection, rather the artist participates in what Plato calls “divine madness.” The second part proposes that there is a general form of madness in modern society, which is the opposite of this divine madness, the result of the subjective turn toward the self in philosophy and psychology that leads to an obsession with the self. The third part considers how viewing the artist as a fool provides a response to this particular madness, a response that goes beyond simply returning to Plato’s divine madness as a dialectical alternative.