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Bodies in Society: Essays on Christianity in Contemporary Culture

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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"" ...
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Bodies in Society: Essays on Christianity in Contemporary Culture

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Overview

Description:
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.

Endorsements:
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).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556354212
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2008
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

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).

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vii Introduction ix Part I Bodies
1 The Pursuit of Lifefulness: In Search of a Method 3
2 Revisioning an Embodied Christianity 9
3 Violence against Women in the Historical Christian West and in North American Secular Culture: The Visual and Textual Evidence 19
4 Textual Harassment: Desire and the Female Body 38
5 Celibacy as Sexual Orientation 52
6 Religion and Food: The Case of Eating Disorders 58 Part II Society
7 Voyeurism and Visual Images of Violence 75
8 Religion and Values in Contemporary North American Popular Film 79
9 Film Talk: An Approach to Moviegoing 86
10 Larry Flynt in Real Life 91
11 What You See is What You Get: Religion in Prime Time Fiction Television 94
12 Fashioning the Self 105
13 Disney Spirituality: An Oxymoron? 111
14 Bonheoffer (the Film) and Bonheoffer (the Theologian) 125
15 The Passion for Social Justice and The Passion of the Christ 130
16 Love in a Culture of Fear 137 Part III Christianity in North American Society
17 Pilgrimage as Metaphor in a Nuclear Age 147
18 Imitation of Christ: Is it Possible in the Twentieth Century? 163
19 Hermeneutics of Generosity and Suspicion: Pluralism and Theological Education 179
20 Theory, Theology, and Episcopal Churchwomen 193
21 From the Garden to the Academy: Blame, Battle, or a Better Way?: Exploring Sex and Power in the Academy 207 Bibliography 219
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