November 18, 2013 § 2 Comments
“Confessions of an Errant Postmodernist, ” a review of For a Church to Come by Peter Blum, Canadian Mennonite, Vol. 17, No. 22 (2013): 32.
For a Church to Come, the newest addition to the Polyglossia series published by Herald Press, is a collection of essays full of gems for those who long to see authentic conversation occur between Anabaptism and postmodernity. Prefaced by theologian John D. Caputo, the book contains seven essays of diverse themes united by the confrontation between postmodern philosophy and Anabaptist Mennonite theology. While the essays themselves may not be accessible to readers without some philosophical and theological education, the introduction, interludes, and appendix may find a wider audience. Blum introduces the book with “Confessions of an Errant Postmodernist” and provides an interlude entitled “Boxes”, a poem entitled “Nine-Tenths of the Law”, and a very thought provoking appendix reflecting on John Howard Yoder. These meditations question common assumptions about absolute truth (in the introduction), offer meaningful reflections on the place of theory in theology (in an interlude), and provide very insightful thoughts on the relationship between the scholarly work and biography of John Howard Yoder.
Blum explains and problematizes the ambivalent and contradictory meaning(s) of the term “postmodern” and shows how the term names a suspicion of finality and closure. This suspicion of ultimate foundations means that, for those with postmodern convictions, nothing is beyond question. The experiments within For a Church to Come follow an attitude in which questions are more important than answers, and occasional interventions are perhaps more authentic than long systematic tomes. In his interlude entitled “Boxes” Blum illustrates the ways in which we theorize about reality (whether theologically or philosophically) by finding categories for our experiences. This is a theme that runs through the essays in the book, along with the very nonviolent and pacifist caution to avoid letting our categories be too totalizing.
The publication of these essays, edited and collected in one place, will be especially helpful for students in the humanities with an interest in both postmodern philosophy (Derrida, Heidegger, Levinas) and Anabaptist Mennonite Theology. In this way Blum joins other Mennonite scholars who are engaging in dialogue with postmodern thinkers, such as Chris Huebner (A Precarious Peace: Yoderian Explorations on Theology, Knowledge, and Identity) and Jamie Pitts (Principalities and Powers: Revising John Howard Yoder’s Sociological Theology). One can only hope that scholarly and popular work of this calibre continues to be published on the relationship between our Mennonite identity and our postmodern climate.
July 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
An edited version of my UWO Theory Session, “What is a Compendium? Parataxis, Hypotaxis, and the Question of the Book“, has just been published by the wonderful folks at Continent. Here is their abstract for the piece:
Through his analyses of figures such as parataxis, hypotaxis, compilation, and selection — and a reading of Derrida on Jabès, specifically — Maxwell Kennel plots a reminder — for all of those concerned with fragmentary or hierarchical writing — of the importance of the figure of the Compendium and the figure of the Book as indispensible metonymies for grand theories of anything..
June 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
Thanks to the amazing folks at Punctum Books, Dialectics Unbound: On the Possibility of Total Writing is now public, published, and publicized, and available in print and as an open access PDF!
June 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
The next month or so should see the following pieces of writing available for download
• Dialectics Unbound: On the Possibility of Total Writing. Dead Letter Office Series (Brooklyn, New York: Punctum Books, Spring 2013)
• “What is a Compendium? Parataxis, Hypotaxis, and the Question of the Book” Continent 3.1 (Spring 2013)
(!Link Added) • “The Spirit of Contradiction” An Encounter with Introduction to Antiphilosophy by Boris Groys, PhaenEx: Journal of Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture, Volume 8, No. 1 (2013)
May 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
I haven’t posted song lyrics here in a while so here’s Propagandhi’s “Tertium Non Datur” – inspiring stuff
All the sucked thumbs and held skirts
And blankets, so secure
They block out the sweep of
The floodlights that could free them from…
The darkness that surrounds them,
The demons that keep hounding them
And gouge their eyes…
Till all they can see
Are rigid dichotomies
Of the sacred and the profane,
Of salvation or shame, with fuck-all in between.
The human impulse to explain
Hijacked, a controlled flight into terrain,
To ensure no passenger ever makes
Any connection between the proscription of mystery and malaise.
We all seek meaning in our lives,
But when every shadow of doubt is denied,
The sanctification of hatred thrives…
On every sucked thumb and held skirt
And blanket, so secure,
They block out the sweep of
The floodlights that could free us from…
The darkness that surrounds us,
The demons that keep hounding us.
We put out our own eyes
And reproach the blind.
April 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
A few updates on writing and projects:
1. I will soon be receiving proofs for “What is a Compendium?” from continent, and when the piece is published I’ll link to it here and hopefully also on the Song & Sin Centre for Theory and Criticism blog, given that the essay was originally given as a talk at their Theory Sessions.
2. Dialectics Unbound: On the Possibility of Total Writing is also in the proof(read)ing stage, and should be out in the next month or two (I imagine). Perhaps there will be a launch event, but that’s all TBD right now.
3. Notes on the Compendium, that perpetually unwritable work-in-progress has a new organization which I am very excited about. I’ll post it here in a little while. As usual, the end of the summer is my target for completing it, and my target is now 50 000 words. We’ll see how that goes
4. Mennonite Metaphysics: An Ontology of Culture and Discourse (which will hopefully be my MTS thesis), has found a beginning. I will be presenting a talk called “Mennonite Identity and Metaphysics: Resonances between Theology, Literary Criticism, and Continental Philosophy” at the Mennonite Studies Colloquium Series at Conrad Grebel College on Friday May 10th, and the writing for that is almost done. Here is the abstract:
Given that Mennonite identity is a very present concern for those interested in both Mennonite theology and Mennonite writing, I would like to offer some reflections on how certain aspects of philosophy and critical theory (the work of Theodor Adorno and Hans-Georg Gadamer) can make a valuable contribution to these discourses, particularly regarding the way that identity is formed and framed (or individuated). Following from this I will also explore the possibility of a Mennonite approach to metaphysics, and how the treatment of boundaries in Mennonite discourse can inform a nonviolent treatment of metaphysical, cultural, or personal identity.
5. Being & Chiasmus: An Ontology of Identity and Totality is on the very back burner and will hopefully become my PHD thesis in a few years…
Where Theory Printers Publishing is concerned, we are proud to have released our second title: Melanie Kampen’s Imagining the Ethics of Diaspora. (Endorsed by Chris Huebner of Canadian Mennonite University!)
Lastly, the review essay on Boris Groys’ Introduction to Antiphilosophy for PhaenEx is also in the proof stage, and my review is out in the new CGR. And finally, my BA in Philosophy and Rhetoric & Professional Writing id hereby completed, and I have been formally accepted into the Masters of Theological Studies at Conrad Grebel College, beginning this Fall… Whew!
Thanks again for your interest everyone,