2017: A Literary Year in Review

2017 has been a great year. Tom Darin Linksy put up a post yesterday listing his favorite writings from the year, and he inspired me to revive The Herring Review. In the past twelve months the following have occurred: I found my ideal doctoral program and began course work with Faulkner University, I learned that I could get paid for my writing, and my wife and I bought our first house! We now have a beautiful dining room/library where I tend to write. I hope in the coming year to keep this blog up to date with writings which are not copyrighted by another website or organization. But enough about the future; let’s look at what happened in 2017!

 

  1. The Imaginative Conservative – I wrote four articles published by The Imaginative Conservative ranging in topics from Wendell Berry to #metoo. My favorite article on TIC this year came after reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and Fr. William Lynch’s Christ and Apollo. Entitled “Greek Comedy and Norse Tragedy: In Search of a Truer Story,” the essay can be read here.
  2. Moral Apologetics – It was a mild year for my writing on the Moral Apologetics website; they accepted the one submission I sent. “Sophocles and the Doctrine of Sin: A Reflection on Teaching Greek Tragedy” followed my second year teaching Greek literature to 9th graders. I was surprised by how clearly the Greek tragedians convey a robust picture of sin, and the ways in which my (secular) classroom could become a conduit for this biblical doctrine. The essay can be read here. Despite not writing much for MA this year, I made their list of “Top 10 Posts in 2017” with an essay on the applicability of Scripture to all areas (originally posted in 2015); that list can be found here.
  3. The Federalist – I wrote two articles for The Federalist, one on the feasibility of classical education and another on the self-defeated nihilism within season 6 of House of Cards. I have grown to respect The Federalist as a website a great deal; during the Roy Moore scandal weeks they took a lot of flack for publishing voices on both sides; while they definitely lean to the right politically, The Federalist is working to restore an active, balanced journalism in the United States, and I am proud to write for them. The House of Cards essay can be found here.
  4. Think Christian – In May, I discovered Think Christian by way of Dr. Karen Swallow-Prior. Think Christian follows a Kuyperian analysis principle: if the teachings of Scripture are true, then we should see echoes, parallels, and hints of those truths in contemporary pop culture. Think Christian seeks to draw out those hidden connections to Christianity buried within pop culture. Thus far, I have written five articles for TC. My favorites include my first article on American Gods, one on “This is Us,” and an analysis of my favorite song in Disney’s Moana. Writing for TC has forced me to develop a more concise style – their ideal post says something substantial in 700-800 words.
  5. Literary Life – Who knew that Facebook could be helpful for a young writer? This year I discovered the Facebook reading group (and blog) Literary Life, run by Rick Wilcox. Wilcox began his blog years ago, and has built his ministry around the need for Christians to engage literature. Rick was kind enough to publish two essay of mine as part of his Sunday guest series of posts. My first essay for him examines Brideshead Revisited as a novel contrasting modernism with an enchanted Catholicism; the second considers Dante as an illustration of the power literature has to express theology beautifully.
  6. Religion and Liberty Transatlantic – In July, I attended the Acton University conference in Grand Rapids. I learned year ago that the point of conferences is not really to attend sessions; the point is networking. I recall being stuck in a conversation with a history PhD who taught at a protestant seminary and had recently converted to Catholicism; he felt no need to inform his administration that he could not sign his school’s articles of faith. Rather aghast at this inconsistency, I searched for a way out of the conversation. I saw Fr. Ben Johnson standing at a table and went over to introduce myself. We had a lovely conversation about our mutual spiritual journeys. His went from Evangelical to atheist to Greek Orthodox priest; mine went from Southern Baptist to almost-Orthodox to almost-Catholic to almost-Presbyterian and back around to Southern Baptist. We exchanged emails, and went on with our different quests. That night, I discovered he was the chief editor for Acton! I emailed him about submitting some papers to Acton for publication, and to date he has published three of my articles Religion and Liberty Transatlantic, and two more are forthcoming in January. My favorite essay is a reworking of a conference presentation from 2016, and it addresses the unique view of tolerance which developed in the West; that essay be accessed here.
  7. Christ and Pop Culture – In late October, a Facebook post informed me that Christ and Pop Culture had put out a call for submission to their November online magazine edition. I submitted a proposal, and Erin Stranza approved the pitch. At the end of that month, my school hosted a debate seminar and mini-tournament. I was present, but multi-tasking. I drafted the article as Dr. Ben Voth lectured on the different burdens affirmative and negative must meet in parliamentary debate. The following month, “American Gods: A Pagan Enchantment which does not Satisfy” was published. This article is an expansion of the ideas I initially developed in my American Gods piece for Think Christian, and can be accessed here.
  8. Christianity Today – My writing process is rather strange; usually, I get ideas for books, essays, articles, and poems during church services. There is something about the liturgy of prayer, singing, and orientation towards God that allows thoughts to snap together. During Advent of 2016, one Sunday’s song selection was particularly poignant. The praise team combined medieval, modern, and contemporary Christmas hymns in a smooth format; simultaneously, I had begun reading Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age and saw in each hymn a snapshot of the Christian mentalite of the age through which theology was expressed. Later that afternoon, Beth Ann Schreier mentioned in our small group how she wished someone would write on the origins of hymns. My article pitch was born! In January I pitched this article about theological imagination seen through Christmas hymns to Christianity Today; Caleb Lindgren accepted it, and over the next year we sent 47 emails back and forth polishing this article. On December 12, Christianity Today published “The Contexts for our Christmas Carols” on their Church History webpage; that article can be viewed here.
  9. Academic writing – I began doctoral work fall semester of 2017. As part of that, I have written one book review for The Journal of Faith and the Academy. I reviewed Wendy McElroy’s Rape Culture Hysteria and found her analysis to be sound; she questions the very existence of a pandemic of male assault. I wrote this review before the #metoo began trending, and still think McElroy provides a helpful corrective to mainstream feminism. For my philosophy survey course, I wrote a 25 page term paper attempting to construct a positive philosophy of language defending a traditional understanding of words as granting access to meaning. To do so, I spent several weeks reading Heidegger, Gadamer, and Foucault and then set them in conversation with each other.
  10. Upcoming projects – In January, I will have an essay published on The Intersect Project connecting free market capitalism with biblical Christianity (not identical, but parallel to each other) and a review of Ivan Spencer’s Tweetable Nietzsche on the Religion and Liberty Transatlantic. I plan to review Mike Cospar’s Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World for the Journal of Faith and the Academy. I have a paper on enchantment and literature being considered for publication by the Institute for the Advances Study of Culture at UVA (it was turned down by Dappled Things and Image this past year). I have plans to write on the theology within Les Miserables, the Museum of the Bible as a cultural artifact, and continue working on my ongoing book project. The book is attempting to work out a detailed argue for why every high school student should sincerely ask himself the question “should I go to college?” and consider the wider options available which do not entail years of debt slavery.

What a year! God has blessed my small efforts richly; in the middle of full time teaching, part time doctoral studies, new home ownership, regular church involvement, and lots of time spent with my wife, I am astounded to look back over this list and see what opportunities God has brought my way in 2017. 2018 looms on the horizon and, from all indications, looks to be a great year (with lower taxes and better federal government – who knew that could happen?) I will close this lengthy blog post with my favorite passage from Numbers: In 2018, “May the LORD bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you for a blessing.”

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