By the Books

Faculty topics range from black composers to Christian love to the end of the world

New books by members of the St. Thomas faculty are as varied as their writers.

Authors explore the disappearance of an Ecuadorian architect, hold conversations with black American composers and examine the popular end-of-the-world imagination in film and television. They also examine the nature of love – how Christians understand and can embody it, how self-love and self-denial can be reconciled, and how Christian communities can offer alternatives to modern

Arquitectura y empresa en el Quito Colonial: José Jaime Ortiz, Alarife Mayor (Architecture and Enterprise in Colonial Quito: José Jaime Ortiz, Master Builder) by Susan V. Webster (Ediciones Abya Yala, Quito)

Dr. Susan V. Webster, Art History Department, was in Quito, Ecuador, in 1998 doing research on a Fulbright fellowship, when she stopped by the national archives for one last look around on her way to the airport to return to St. Paul for fall semester. There she found a manuscript that research revealed had all the aspects of a murder mystery – the story of architect José Jaime Ortiz, who in 1707 was accused of murdering a friend while they searched for Inca gold on the volcano Pichincha. Though later acquitted, Ortiz, his health and reputation ruined, died that same year. And Ortiz, an emigrant from Spain who designed and built at least 11 famous buildings in Quito, was dropped from historical records. With rare exceptions, the documentation on Ortiz was previously unknown for the last three centuries; Webster recovered the original contracts for all of his buildings and re-introduced him to the historical record.

In October 2002, the launching of Webster’s book, which she wrote in Spanish and published in Ecuador to make it accessible to the Ecuadorian people, took place at the Church of El Sagrario, the most important church built by Ortiz in Quito. Webster chose the site and asked the parish priest to conduct a sung Mass for the architect’s soul. In attendance were the Archbishop of Quito, the Franciscan Order superior, the cultural attaché of the U.S. Embassy and the official historian of Quito. Webster was praised for her “valuable contribution to our history of art and culture,” by Quito’s official historian, Jorge Salvador Lara. “Her book is for us a crucial work. It is also, for academics, a model of scientific investigation.”

“The investigation would make a great mystery movie,” laughed Webster, who plans to include Ortiz’ story in her next book, Building Colonial Quito: Architects, Patrons and the Profession, 1600-1750.

Christian Love: How Christians Through the Ages Have Understood Love by Bernard V. Brady (Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C.)

“l love, therefore I am. Loving seems entirely natural and being loved seems wonderfully good. When we love great things or when we love greatly, we feel most alive. We make friends. We marry. We live in families. We feel a connection, however distant, with others. We work. We dedicate ourselves to ideals. We love, therefore we are. “Loving and existence are dramatically and emphatically tied together for the Christian. At least they ought to be. Christian faith attests to a God described as love, and holds that God demands that we love. God models love particularly and most intensely through the life, teachings and death of Jesus. By nature we love; by faith we must love.”

To create a survey of how Christians through the ages have understood love, Dr. Bernard Brady, Theology Department, examines the key writings and thinkers on the nature of Christian love, including St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and Soren Kierkegaard among others. He also examines 20th century figures whose lives seemingly embodied Christian love: Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Pope John Paul II. Brady also analyzes modern writings on the subject and concludes with his own understanding of Christian love.

Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy as a Political Act in an Age of Global Consumerism by William T. Cavanaugh (T & T Clark, A Continuum imprint, London, New York)

“In exposing some of the false theological imaginings of modern politics, I hope to give hope to the reader that the iron cage of modernity does not inevitably hold us in its grip. I focus on the Eucharist as an alternative imagining of space and time which builds up a body of resistance to violence, the body of Christ. This is a body that is wounded, broken by the powers and principalities and poured out in blood offering upon this stricken earth. But this is also a body crossed by the resurrection, a sign of the startling irruption of the Kingdom into historical time and the disruptive presence of Christ the King to the politics of the world.”

Dr. William T. Cavanaugh, Theology Department, writes a critical review of the state, civil society and globalization from a theological point of view. He analyzes three pervasive myths: 1) the state as that which saves us from conflict, especially religious conflict; 2) civil society as a public space free of coercion by the state; and 3) globalization as a type of catholicity, a process of bringing the world’s people closer together. Cavanaugh argues that these myths are false and represent ideologies that undermine the full social presence of Christianity.

Musical Landscapes in Color: Conversations with Black American Composers by William C. Banfield (Scarecrow Press, Inc.: Lanham, Maryland, and Oxford)

“My whole concept of writing music is to make any piece come alive, to let people see and hear what I hear, see and feel. I guess it’s the child in me that makes me want people to see, feel and understand what’s going on around them.” Bill Childs, composer “There is a spiritual connection to people who are touched creatively and have the ability to take what is on the inside and put it out there. That connection, to me, reeks of responsibility to give it your best, to learn as much as possible, and to listen, because I think that creative stuff is a door that opens.” Patrice Rushen, composer

Dr. William C. Banfield of American Cultural Studies/Music pulls together in intimate interviews a rare collection of insights by some 40 contemporary Black American composers. Banfield is interested in the transformative role artists play in contemporary society and Landscapes is a journey through these composers’ music and their perspectives on art in the 21st century. Banfield has conversations with composers from 1922 to the present – from Noel DaCosta, Dorothy Rudd Moore, Jessie Hairston, Billy Childs, Herbie Hancock and Bobby McFerrin to Michael Abels and Patrice Rushen. Banfield argues that contemporary composers talking about art process, musical careers, aesthetics, music, history and culture in the United States increase our knowledge of the diversity of creative forms. He states as well that these perspectives challenge, change and transform the way music education is taught and the way music is consumed in American culture.

The End of the World: The Apocalyptic Imagination in Film and Television, by John W. Martens (J.Gordon Shillingford Pub. Inc.)

“What accounts for the attractiveness of apocalyptic? … These texts speak the truth about the end. The truth is that we all die. The truth is we do not know when that day will come. Each of our lives is a little apocalypse now. Science cannot settle our fears or answer the question of death. … Life is moving toward its end and we are all players in this end game. Our choices matter, to others and to ourselves, and we are accountable for how we live. There is good, its name is God, and good will triumph over evil. The day is coming, when evil will be rendered obsolete, the earth transformed, when God will act ‘to wipe every tear from their eyes.’”

Dr. John W. Martens, Theology Department, examines films and television shows ranging from “The Exorcist” to “Mad Max,” from “Bladerunner” to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” that portray the end of the world. Many focus on evil as the most powerful force in the universe, one that humans must stop. Christian texts, such as Revelations, have a different view – God will save and transform the cosmos and destroy evil. The book – which explains the social, historical and theological nature of ancient apocalypses – deals with the hopefulness at the heart of the Christian message and the fear and anxiety at the heart of popular culture.

For the Joy Set Before Us: Augustine and Self-Denying Love by Gerald W. Schlabach (University of Notre Dame Press)

“Though the issues here have had a long and contentious history of debate that Augustine in fact helped shape, they are brutally concrete for the battered wife and for any shelter or support group coming to her aid. How should she go about extracting herself from an abusive relationship? How may she defend herself? … The Christian community (pacifist or otherwise) has little if any moral basis for condemning the battered wife who reaches for a kitchen knife to defend herself, or the shelter that calls upon armed police force for help in extracting and protecting her, if it does not have committed leaders and members prepared to risk their own suffering in order to accompany her. But precisely to the degree that Christian communities are prepared to risk suffering together in solidarity with their most vulnerable members will they be in a better position to develop their own forms of nonviolent civil defense and nonlethal policing.”

Dr. Gerald W. Schlabach, Theology Department, argues that contemporary Christian ethics needs a unified account of self-love and self-denial, concepts Christian communities have debated for ages. Many regard self-love as incompatible with the self-sacrifice of Christ. Others, especially feminists and liberation theologians, contest the notion that self-sacrifice is the test of authentic Christian love. Augustine’s integration of self-love and self-denial suggests criteria for distinguishing properly Christian self-denial from victimization in the face of abuse. … Continent love can only “have” the good by trusting God, respecting the other, and receiving all goods as God’s gifts, not by domineering power and manipulation.