X-Men: Chiasmus as the Key to Everything

Doug talks chiasmus with Dr. Andrew Harvey (aka X-Mule).

We start with the basics of chiasmus as a rhetorical device with words placed in a mirroring structure: ABBA (“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”) and consider different kinds of chiasmus (words, letters, sounds).

Then, to the deeper waters: we discuss chiasmus in major poetry, from Virgil to Eliot, and delve into its theological significance, taken in the Christian world as the mark of the Cross (the Chi or X). In the highest chiasmus, found in Athansius’ “On the Incarnation,” God became man that man might become God.

Our epigraph is from George Herbert’s poem, “The Priesthood.” Plus, Dr. X’s Top Ten Instances of Chiasmus.

Show notes:

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Episode 24: J. Alfred Prufrock and the Modern Self

Doug and Shawn read through T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Much of the problem folks have with reading poetry (especially ‘important’ poetry) is that they don’t trust themselves. We try to deal with the poem in a way that connects it to our everyday experience.

Show notes:

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Episode 23 Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man is Hard to Find

Doug and Caren are back together to talk about Flannery O’Connor’s most famous short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

After a brief digression on summer road trips, they turn to the most famous account of a family trip gone horribly wrong. We delve into the nature of evil, the nihilist tendencies of the age, and the possibility of grace.

A sample of Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” provides the epigraph. Plus, our Top 10 Road Trip Ideas.

Show notes:

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Episode 22 Maps and Selfhood

Doug and his geographer-wife Shawn talk through what we lose when we lose physical maps and the ability to read them.

The younger generation has lost the ability to read maps, relying (as we all do) on Google Maps and navigation. This brings about an inability to locate ourselves in space, in relation to other places. Existing in a virtual space is the same as existing in a non-place, which worsens the crisis of selfhood.

We discuss other cultures in which spatial orientation is fundamental. We talk about maps as art, the impulse of children to map-making, and, most important, the development of the self through an ability to navigate the real world.

Finally, we have our Top 10 Geographers.

Show notes:

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Episode 21 Classical Philosophy and the Nicene Creed

Doug talks with Dr. Robert Schaefer about Athens and Jerusalem, the ancient confluence of classical philosophy with Christian revelation. We pay particular attention to the case of the Nicene Creed. Plus, our Top 10 works of political philosophy.

Show notes (including the Top 10 Works of Political Philosophy):

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Episode 20 The Place of Poetry in Reviving the Wasteland (Inner and Outer)

Doug is joined by poet and teacher Will Justice Drake for a discussion of the place of poetry in preserving the human and renewing our lives and communities.

Starting with Walker Percy’s analysis of the loss of language and viable selfhood, we consider the fundamental difference between true poetry and common language. How does poetry resist the devaluation of words and the evacuation of things (including people)? How is it a form of resistance to the disorder of the age?

Most important, we consider how the recovery of language through poetry can spark a renewal of our selves and the possibility of communion. We have poetry from Dickinson, Stevens, and Eliot scattered throughout, but our centerpiece is “Summer Storm (Circa 1916), and God’s Grace” from Robert Penn Warren’s book Promises.

Show notes and further reading:

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Episode 19 Man on the Way: The Need for Pilgrimage in the Present World

Doug and his wife Shawn, a cultural geographer, talk through the essentials and purpose of pilgrimage. Today, ‘pilgrimage’ can mean most anything, from going to Graceland to sanctifying the daily grind. But what is the traditional understanding of pilgrimage (particularly from a Catholic perspective)?

We establish some crucial elements and talk through why a restored, traditional, sense and practice of pilgrimage answers to our age of anxious, directionless ‘freedom.’ We pay particular attention to the Camino, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.

Our epigraph is, of course, from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. We end with our Top Ten Books/Movies about pilgrimage.

Show notes:

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Episode 18 Ideology and Sacrament: Katherine Anne Porter’s “Flowering Judas”

Doug and Caren talk over Katherine Anne Porter’s great short story “Flowering Judas.” We start with a bit of background on her life and career, including her conversion to Catholicism and failed marriages, but our focus is on the story itself.

Porter’s craft and technical mastery left an enduring mark on the American short story, including the work of writers like Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty.

“Flowering Judas” is set in the revolutionary upheavals of Mexico, which Porter had experienced firsthand. Laura, the primary character, is a young American woman caught up in larger events but strangely detached from her own life and governed by fear. She cannot love and is not satisfied by her abstract ideology.

Her suppressed sacramental longing, culminating in the potent Eucharistic imagery of the final paragraph, plays a crucial role in the story. Porter, like Graham Greene, had a rocky relationship with the Catholic Church, but it deeply informs her art.

Show notes:

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Episode 17 Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life

In our second Jordan Peterson episode, we look more closely at his bestselling new book, 12 Rules for Life. Our epigraph is from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding.” We go rule by rule, looking at the main thrust of each and the repeated themes that emerge.

Peterson’s book is far from a standard self-help book. It ranges from practical advice on breaking negative cycles to a ringing call for heroism in the face of nihilistic despair. It’s how to make the world a little more like Heaven and a little less like Hell.

Show notes:

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