I appreciate a man who not only is a fan of Dorothy Sayers’s essays on work, but also read all the Lord Peter Wimsey novels with his wife during their first year of marriage. This is Steve Garber, of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture, blogging on the institute’s website:
As we talked, my friend the businessman-become-farmer asked me if I had ever read Why Work? by Dorothy Sayers. I have, and think it is as a good a statement about work as anyone has written. And I smiled, telling him that Meg and I had read aloud all her Lord Peter Wimsey novels the first year we were married. She is a favorite for many reasons.
The following is a short bit from her work on work, Continue reading
Image by summonedbyfells via Flickr
Speaking of Dorothy Sayers, thanks to friend Marc Cortez over at Scientia et Sapientia for this reminder of a piece of Sayers’s writing that has become more read in recent years than perhaps anything else she wrote besides her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery stories:
Today marks Dorothy Sayers‘ 118th birthday (June 13, 1893). Writer, theologian, poet, essayist, and playwright, Sayers did it all. And, she did it amazingly well.
To commemorate her birthday, here are some excerpts from her essay on The Lost Tools of Learning. Regardless of whether you agree with her argument that we need to return to medieval models of education (and the way this argument has been used by the classical and home schooling movements), her comments on the importance of learning to think are outstanding:
“Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?”
For the rest of the quotations, see here.
Shout out to my all-time favorite female apologist (that is, a person who is female and a Christian apologist)–Dorothy L. Sayers. A neat article today by a smart young fellow I once met at the Marion Wade Center at Wheaton, named Cole Matson. Cole presents one of Sayers’s most powerful ideas: the spiritual as well as intellectual integrity of the artist/writer/dramatist:
For Sayers, the artist is a person who is called to a contemplative vocation, and who delights in sharing the fruits of that contemplation with others through the creation of artworks. Artistic creation is a necessary part of the vocation; a contemplative who is not also a craftsman is not an artist. But contrary to Lewis’ focus on an artwork’s potential value for edification, Sayers focuses on the artist’s inner delight in making as the raison d’être of artistic creation. ‘The only rule I can find,’ Sayers writes, ‘is to write what you feel impelled to write, and let God do what He likes with the stuff’.
[SAYERS:] Do you think that love of creation is sufficient reason to justify making art? Or do you think an artist must also consider whether or not his art will edify? If you are an artist, how do you keep yourself open to hear the words or images you may be given?
You can read the whole article here.
Aquinas with his favorite novel? (The Glory of St. Thomas Aquinas, detail. Paris, Musée du Louvre.)
A nifty post by “Theology PhD Mom” on novels and theology, including a run-down of some of the theological themes in Nick Hornby‘s About A Boy (which later became a movie starring Hugh Grant). Some snippets:
“My PhD advisor has often suggested that fiction is good for theologians to read. Until I met him, I had generally thought that my reading mystery novels when I was supposed to be reading Barth IV.2 or, heavens, the Summa Theologica, was a big vice. But who am I to argue with my Doktorvater?”
Excellent start. And then quickly, a list of a few theologians (and one medievalist) who also wrote mystery novels:
“G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown), Dorothy Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey), Ralph McInerny (Father Dowling – and I used to love the tv show, shot in my very own beloved Denver), to name a few. Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants, Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Brother Cadfael, detective fiction, Dorothy L Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey, mystery novels, narrative theology, Nick Hornby, novels, Ralph McInerny, Summa Theologica
A couple of years back, when I was in the thick of writing Patron Saints for Postmoderns, I started doodling with anagrams for my “saints’” names. This is what I came up with:
Margery Kempe = “Kerygma per me”
That’s a Greek/Latin hybrid, meaning, “the Gospel proclamation for me.” So much of what Margery did was in response to her deeply personal sense of what the Gospel proclamation meant–for her and for all people.
An excellent book on the theology of Dorothy Sayers–indeed the only such book that I know of–is George Fox University professor Laura K. Simmons’s Creed Without Chaos (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005). Simmons goes methodically through Sayers’s theological thought, stopping at one point to examine the writer’s handling of the Incarnation:
77: “The dogma of the Incarnation is the most dramatic thing about Christianity,” Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in October 1937, “and indeed, the most dramatic thing that ever entered into the mind of man; but if you tell people so, they stare at you in bewilderment.”One of the doctrines on which Sayers reflected perhaps more than any other was the incarnation. A proper understanding of Christ’s essence, character, and mission on earth was “the difference between pseudo-Christianity and Christianity,” she wrote in June of 1945. The relationship between the God who created the world and God’s Son, Jesus, who walked in it, was a crucial part of her theology. Continue reading
Into her famous mid-20th century essay “The Dogma Is the Drama,” mystery writer, religious playwright, and Dante translator Dorothy L. Sayers inserts the following scathing and humorous assessment of what many unchurched people think the church believes. Sadly, this portrait may still not be far off. And as they were then, these sorts of mistakes are still largely the fault of the church itself.
Q.: What does the Church think of God the Father?
A.: He is omnipotent and holy. He created the world and imposed on man conditions impossible of fulfillment. He is very angry if these are not carried out. He sometimes interferers by means of arbitrary judgments and miracles, distributed with a good deal of favoritism. He . . . is always ready to pound on anybody who trips up over a difficulty in the Law, or is having a bit of fun. He is rather like a dictator, only larger and more arbitrary. Continue reading
Just submitted a paper proposal to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, 2011, for a session sponsored by the Purdue C S Lewis Society. Whether or not it includes me, this session will be a historic event: as long as I or the convener can remember, Kzoo has done without even a single C S Lewis paper.
This is quite odd, given that, in the words of Norman Cantor, “Of all the medievalists of the twentieth century, Lewis and Tolkien have gained incomparably the greatest audience.” I’ve seen lots of Tolkien sessions at Kzoo, but nary a Lewis session.
Wish me luck . . .
ABSTRACT: The Intuitive Medievalism of C S Lewis
Lewis did not set out to be a medievalist, but from early in his life—before his conversion—medieval thinking and values drew him inexorably, eventually forming his deepest commitments. Continue reading
A Christian literary feast
One of the more fascinating books I’ve read in the last 10 years is a sort of group biography by the prolific Catholic writer Joseph Pearce. Called Literary Converts (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000), this sprawling account leads us through a surprisingly large and varied network of 20th-century British literary Christians. Here are G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ronald Knox, T. S. Eliot, Dorothy L. Sayers, and many more. They all play their part in the spread of Christianity in English literary culture after the spiritual doldrums of the 1910s and 20s.
Pearce weaves themes and connections that will grip any fan of those writers who shares their faith. His keen eye for the telling detail, the revealing vignette, and the colorful anecdote make this book both a rich resource and a pleasure to read, if you can forgive the Roman Catholic triumphalism that emerges here and there along the way. Continue reading
Posted in Patron Saints for Postmoderns, Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Anglicanism, C S Lewis, distributism, Dorothy L Sayers, economics, G K Chesterton, J R R Tolkien, Joseph Pearce, literature, Roman Catholicism, World War II