Romanticism and Islam

Borrowed ImaginationOne of the intriguing new developments in British Romantic studies centers on the religious sources of the poets, particularly the Arabic-Islamic sources that proved decisive influences on some of the most remarkable poetic works in the English language. Samar Attar’s fascinating new book, Borrowed Imagination: The British Romantic Poets and the Arabic-Islamic Sources (Lexington, 2014) builds on positive scholarly contributions by Nigel Leask, Gregory Wassil, and Emily Haddad. Continue reading

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Death, Bodies, and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Smoke-Gets-in-Your-EyesWhen I was an adjunct English professor I especially enjoyed an assigned reading on all the strange and, let’s be honest, disturbing things morticians do to a body after death. In the United States, the practices surrounding death, wakes, and funerals are strange to say the least. In short, making a person’s body fit for viewing days after decay has begun is no easy task. Blood’s gotta go. Eyelids need to stay shut. Makeup is required. Continue reading

Dwelling in Creation (like a Romantic)

Consider the Romantic narrative of the solitary wanderer. As the story goes, the poet-genius rambles off into the woods or high up along the ridge of a mountain and, along the way, encounters the divine.

The narrative is a powerful one, not least because so many of us have had just such an encounter with divinity by way of nature. Continue reading

Dataclysm Knows Nothing about Religion

DataclysmI didn’t perform a data set analysis on Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm, which draws heavily from his work as co-founder of OkCupid (the popular dating website), but I can say one thing for certain: Dataclysm knows nothing about religion. And it’s a shame. Continue reading

From Beatrice to Romanticism

Dante and BeatriceMy family named our new puppy Beatrice. Not after “Tris” of Divergent fame, but after Beatrice Portinari—Dante’s inspiration and the celestial muse of The Divine Comedy.

I was an undergraduate when I first read Dante with delight, but in my subsequent study of Romanticism I found that Dante was also a favorite in the nineteenth century. Continue reading

Methodists and Infant Dedication

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my youngest son’s baptism. Infant baptism is the norm among United Methodists today. But many of my non-Methodist friends practice “infant dedication.” In fact, while the two practices are different, they function (in many respects) similarly in Christian faith communities: each marks a moment when family and congregations commit to raising a child to grow into a relationship with Christ. Continue reading

Well Done, Harry Potter!

J K RowlingCome to find out, J. K. Rowling isn’t so different from the rest of us. Sure she has written one of the most popular series in English literary history, inspired a theme park attracting thousands of people every day to enter into a world of her own imagination, and could publish her grocery list with just about any press in the world (and, yes, people would still buy it). But maybe that’s where the differences end. Continue reading