Leo Steinberg (1920–2011) was an art historian whose focus extended from the Renaissance to the modern, and who left a critical legacy on several generations of scholars, critics, and artists. One of his classic works. The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, addressed the as-yet-unsuspected eroticism of the iconographies devoted to Christ and Mary, which generated much controversy throughout Steinberg’s career.
In a recent piece for the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Lee Siegel uses Steinberg’s writing as a lens for understanding the correlation between Pope Francis’s embrace of gay Catholics and his devotion to the poor and afflicted. Here, Siegel notes a central tenet of Steinberg’s book, specifically that, “as a result of the rise of the Franciscan order, around 1260, an emphasis on Christ’s nakedness, and, thus, on his humanity, joined compassion to an acceptance of the role of sexuality in human life.”
Siegel points out that a Renaissance-era credo of the Franciscan order, from which Pope Francis takes his name, was nudus nudum Christum sequi (“follow naked the naked Christ”). He goes on to account for how Steinberg’s art historical thesis implies a theological premise . . .
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Saddened today to note the passing of Andrew M. Greeley (1928–2013)—priest, sociologist, journalist, prolific critic, novelist, and philanthropist. Father Greeley (his preferred moniker) was a priest’s priest—while at the same time an ardent and impassioned critic of established Catholic authority. His writings spanned academic treaties—ecumenical and secular, ethnographic and sociological—weekly newspaper columns, literary potboilers, and vehemently outspoken diatribes against the hypocrisy of the Church in which he was ordained. Among these, the University of Chicago Press was fortunate to publish two works, Priests: A Calling in Crisis (2004) and The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe (coauthored with Michael Hout; 2006). A longtime affiliate of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Greeley also gifted the school with a 1.25 million dollar endowment in 1984 (despite three denials of his own tenure while a professor), which was formerly used to endow a chair of Catholic studies.
“I’m a priest, pure and simple,” he once said, “albeit a priest with a condo in the John Hancock Building and a home in Arizona.”
Chicago Sun-Times obituary
New York Times obituary
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We’re just settling in after our long winter’s nap (in which we dream a dream very much like the College Art Association’s annual meeting and centennial year launch in New York), chiding ourselves for forgetting to offer some important early February accolades.
Last week, at a ceremony in Washington, DC, the 2010 PROSE Awards were announced, honoring the best scholarly and professional publications in over forty categories, nominated by peer publishers, librarians, and science professionals.
Among them? The PROSE Award for U.S. History, handed out to Claude Fischer’s Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character, in which Fischer draws upon decades worth of research to track our American “We” over the past three centuries. And we were just as delighted to see Courtney Bender’s The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination, a work that locates contemporary American spiritual beliefs in various nineteenth-century movements, take home the PROSE Award for Theology and Religious Studies.
And let’s add kudos for our honorable mentions to this rousing chorus: Matthew Jesse Jackson’s The Experimental Group: Ilya Kabakov, Moscow Conceptualism, Soviet Avant-Gardes (Art History and Criticism), Alan D. Schrift’s The History of Continental Philosophy (Multivolume Reference, . . .
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We often find ourselves comparing the nunneries of late sixteen- and early seventeenth-century Italy to a fairly volatile combination of The Craft and Moulin Rouge—just not publicly. So when the Economist took note of Craig Monson’s Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art, and Arson in the Convents of Italy, we immediately put on our thinking habit and got to work. In the book, Monson resurrects forgotten tales and restores to life the long-silent voices of cloistered heroines, drawing attention to the predicament of modern religious women, whose “misbehavior”—seeking ordination as priests or refusing to give up their endowments to pay for others’ wrongdoing in their own archdioceses—continues even today.
The Economist delights in the “too modest” Monson’s tome, which “wears its learning with a smile” despite its serious milieu:
Convents in 16th- and 17th-century Italy were largely dumping-grounds for spare women: widows, discarded mistresses, converted prostitutes and, above all, the unmarried daughters of the nobility. Aristocratic families were loath to stump up dowries for more than one daughter. The rest were walled away. In Milan in the 1600s, three-quarters of the female nobility were cloistered. At the same time the church was cracking down on lax discipline, . . .
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When Edgar Allan Poe died in a Baltimore gutter in 1849, he was buried in an unmarked grave, his funeral attended by only a handful of friends. Within a few decades, however, his growing reputation led to his body being dug up and reburied not once, but twice, in more ostentatious quarters—the second move accompanied by a memorial service attended by such prominent figures as Tennyson and Whitman. And Poe’s bones may not yet be done with their travels: last year’s celebration of his bicentennial brought with it a public tussle between citizens of Baltimore and Philadelphia over each city’s right to call Poe’s legacy—and body—their own.
Poe, however, is far from alone: as Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Michael Kammen reveals in Digging Up the Dead, Americans have been fighting over the remains of their heroes since the early days of the Republic. Vividly recounting the restless afterlives of such figures as Sitting Bull, Jefferson Davis, Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mark Rothko, Kammen shows how regional pride, mistaken identities, battles over reputations, and even crassly commercial tourism have all played parts in this impressively grisly obsession with exhumation. From the grotesqueries of grave robbing and skull . . .
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As James Srodes writes in his recent review of Jews in Nazi Berlin for the Washington Times “all significant historical events—even the ghastly Holocaust—tend to flatten and diminish as time draws us away from the moment they occurred.” Thus the importance of Beate Meyer, Hermann Simon, and Chana Schütz’s archival portrait of Jewish life in the shadow of Nazi Germany—as Srodes writes, a book which “forcibly yanks us back with a fresh, close confrontation with what it was like to face the full horror of the Nazi state’s extermination campaign—and to survive it.”
This book chronicles the… harrowing story of what it was like to live in the heart of the Nazi beast and what one faced in the simple, instinctive struggle to stay alive, to protect one’s loved ones, to bargain with and finally evade the Nazi killing machine. The book itself is a compilation of an exhaustive archival research project shared by two postwar institutions dedicated to gathering, preserving and making sense of the personal documents, photos, diaries, letters and government records of a once great Jewish community that had flourished in the capital of what was believed to be one of the most cultured, . . .
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The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a profile of one of the most consistently interesting academics today, Mark C. Taylor, chair of the religion department at Columbia University and a prolific author, having published tens of books and innumerable articles on topics from poststructuralism to the visual arts. Recently however Taylor’s copious oeuvre has been slightly overshadowed by his controversial critique of tenure and the structure of the academy, originally published in the New York Times, and the basis of his forthcoming book from Knopf, Crisis on Campus.
In the Chronicle article, “The Provocations of Mark Taylor”, Eric Banks revisits the furor created by the article’s radical recommendations for interdisciplinarity and the abolishing of “traditional disciplinary structures” but connects Taylor’s critique to his other work, including his recent book from Columbia University Press, Field Notes From Elsewhere, his 2004 Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption, and his 2007 treatise on religion in contemporary culture After God.
Noting his concurrent efforts at reform in the religion department at Columbia, Banks article concludes:
“Whether his administration at Columbia, or for that matter his forthcoming Knopf title, will light a fire of reform, the experience is worth trying . . .
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