Education is about learning to think. Much of what we call thinking, however, is a hodge-podge of repetitious self-talk, opinion, and cutting and pasting of second-hand ideas. Moreover, thinking in the present has often been alien to scholars who were tempted to think abstractly. But life and thought belong together and require each other, as Plotinus pointed out many centuries ago: ""[T]he object of contemplation is living and life, and the two together are one"" (Ennead 3.8.8). Presently, many women and men in the academic world are thinking concretely within the context of their own lives and with acknowledged accountability to broader communities with whom they think and to whom they are answerable. The essays in this volume consider Christianity as an aspect of North American culture, bringing the critical tools of the academy to thinking about some of the perplexing and pressing problems of contemporary public life.
Three interactive and interdependent themes traverse these essays: gender, the effects of media culture, and institutions. Each of these themes has been central to Margaret Miles's work for thirty years. Each understands corporeality as fundamental both to subjectivity and society. Miles finds that Christianity, critically appropriated, provides ideas and methods for thinking concretely about life in North American society.
Through her prolific career Margaret Miles has focused her scholarly sensibilities on the history of Christianity in conjunction with real and abiding social concerns. Not least of these are the problems and promises of gender relations. In this collection of essays, she turns her critical gaze upon food and film, media and mythology, delight and desire, as she examines the verbal and visual dimensions that comprise institutional, personal, communal, and artistic bodies. Miles mines the history of Christianity for ways to overcome our contemporary dis-ease with bodies. Incisively descriptive, Miles nonetheless remains unafraid to write prescriptions.
--S. Brent Plate, author of Blasphemy: Art that Offends and Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World
This collection of essays, written over two decades, displays Margaret Miles's remarkable breadth as a theologian, administrator, and cultural critic. With equal adeptness, she brings ancient theological insights to bear on contemporary culture and sheds critical, historical light on Christianity. The essays are written with elegance, humor, and acuity, and their subject matter offers something for almost everyone--from film to sexuality, asceticism to pleasure, philosophical reflection to institutional strategy. But they are unified by a single quest--for embodied, passionate life in all its fullness. Following that pilgrimage through these essays, one cannot help but breathe and think more deeply.
--Kathleen Sands, Associate Professor and Director of Religious Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston
About the Contributor(s):
Margaret R. Miles is Emerita Professor of Historical Theology, the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. She was Bussey Professor of Theology at the Harvard University Divinity School until 1996, when she became Dean and Academic Vice President of the Graduate Theological Union. Her books include A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750 (2008), Rereading Historical Theology: Before, During, and After Augustine (2008), The Word Made Flesh: A History of Christian Thought (2005), and Plotinus on Body and Beauty (1999).
Margart R. Miles was formerly Bussey Professor of Historical Theology at the Harvard University Divinity School. She is the author of 'Augustine on the Body', 'Image as Insight', and 'Carnal Knowing'.
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