This week: the name of God, bardolatry, Charles Ives, urban fires & more from the world of culture.
Naming God: Addressing the Divine in Philosophy, Theology and Scripture, by Janet Soskice (Cambridge University Press): In Cratylus (a text which Joshua T. Katz calls in the upcoming September issue “one of the least read but arguably most interesting Platonic dialogues”), Socrates tells his interlocutor that fear of the gods merely arises from “ignorance of the nature of names.” That is, if one but grasped the names of the gods, one would cease to fear them. Such naming, or something like it, is the subject of Janet Soskice’s new book, Naming God. Soskice argues that modern Christianity—preoccupied as it is with proving God—forgets one of its most essential traditions by moving away from the practice of attempting to name God. (There are, after all, some one thousand titles for God in the Bible.) Turning to Judaic, patristic, and medieval sources, Soskice thus proposes a return to the study of God’s name as necessary for a revitalized relationship between philosophy and the religious tradition. —LL
Shakespeare, Hogarth & Garrick: Plays, Painting & Performance, by Robin Simon (Paul Holberton Publishing): The renowned scholar of eighteenth-century English life Pat Rogers wrote in the March 2019 issue of The New Criterion that “If the cult of the Bard has a single originating sponsor, it must be [David] Garrick.” Indeed, much of our modern bardolatry can be traced to Garrick and his involvement in the Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769, the subject of Andrew McConnell Stott’s 2019 book, What Blest Genius. Now Robin Simon, the editor of The British Art Journal, furthers our understanding of Garrick’s relation to Shakespeare by bringing on stage another member of the cast: the painter William Hogarth. An abundantly illustrated volume sheds light on “the significance of Shakespeare, Hogarth and Garrick within the European Enlightenment and the rise of Romanticism.” Be on the lookout for a full review of the work by David Platzer in a forthcoming issue of The New Criterion. —BR
Tours at the Charles Ives Birthplace Museum in Danbury, Connecticut (weekly, Wednesday through Saturday): The music of Charles Ives is infused with the sounds of small-town America at the turn of the twentieth century. Listening to his work, we can pick out interpolations, at turns serious and whimsical, of protestant hymns, brass-band marches, Stephen Foster songs, organ-grinder melodies, as well as the general hustle and bustle of everyday life in Danbury, Connecticut, where Ives was born in 1874. The Ives family home, built during the Revolutionary War and purchased by the family in 1828, still stands but has been closed for about a decade now, its fate at times insecure. Now freshly renovated and open for free tours this summer, the Charles Ives Birthplace Museum reveals the origins of this great American composer’s Whitmanesque vision. —IS
“The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution,” featuring Benjamin L. Carp, at the Bryant Park Reading Room (August 23): Wildfires have been much in the news this summer, as with the recent disaster in Maui. For most New Yorkers, however, such large-scale fires remain a peripheral issue; the clouds of smog that drifted down from Canada a couple months ago, noisome though they were, could hardly be called an existential threat. But in centuries past urban fires were much more common and, being urban, tended to have other causes than dysfunctional land management. This Wednesday, August 23, the historian Benjamin L. Carp will be on hand at the Bryant Park Reading Room to discuss his latest work, The Great New York Fire of 1776, a new account exploring the role American Rebels may have played in that curiously timed conflagration, which erupted just nine days after New York’s capture by the British. (George Washington is said to have been in favor of such a measure, given the city’s geographic and commercial importance.) Sponsored by the New-York Historical Society, the free event is open on a first-come, first-serve basis. —RE
From the Archives:
“Getting back to nature,” by Roger Kimball (October 1985). A review of Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs by Leon R. Kass.
“Half-staff-ism,” by Timothy Jacobson. On lowering standards.
“Gems, mermaids & femmes fatales,” by David Platzer. On “A New Art: Metamorphoses of Jewelry 1880–1914” at the School of Jewelry Arts, Paris.