Back to the Book!

During my day job, I help run a program that brings academically talented students to Vanderbilt to take intense courses with university scholars (professors and PhD students), and summer is our busiest time of year. But I did manage to finish the first draft of my book proposal on June 1. I spent much of August and September working on an essay I agreed to write on Sergei Bulgakov and John Milbank. Having sent in the final edits last week, I was able to sit down with my proposal once again.

What a difference a few months make! In the past I felt like there was something about my argument that just was not working. The proposal is largely based upon my dissertation, but what I realized the other day was that I was too beholden to that behemoth. I am trying to take my dissertation argument and translate it for a wider audience. I suppose at some level I did not want to acknowledge that I would have to write a lot of my book from scratch.

The other morning I outlined what I envisioned the book trying to say. I did not consult any of my notes. I just wrote. I just got done entering those notes into Scrivener, and the result is something much clearer and probably easier that what I was working with by trying to recycle as much of my dissertation as possible.

Experience has taught me to make no more predictions about when the proposal will be submitted. I have a goal, and I am optimistic I will reach that goal. Unfortunately, I have other projects I agreed to do (a review article and a book chapter on Bulgakov and Jonathan Edwards). I am also thinking about writing a proposal for the Sophia Institute. We shall see.

The good news is that my book proposal was not just sitting in a drawer. It was aging, like a fine wine, and the result is something more potent and, hopefully, much more intoxicating.

12 thoughts on “Back to the Book!”

  1. If you’re reporting on H. and C. correctly, that’s a sharp argument.

    Reading C., however, I don’t get the impression that such a collapsing, if it occurs, is of much consequence: his primary argument regarding the political dimension of the Church seems to be (and now this is _me_ shooting from the hip here)

    (1) that the Church is a concrete community that gathers around the Eucharist,
    (2) that the Body of the Church and the Body of the State are not coterminous, and that
    (3) there are public and sometimes consequences to the Church’s ecclesial practices, such as excommunication, that show that someone has done something very very bad,
    (4) and that this is itself a form of political resistance, though perhaps not principally so.

    I can see how (4) would bother you, since I can see how excommunication might be re-tooled as a political device, when in truth political consequences are only a secondary effect. I got the impression from reading T&E that this was not really where he goes with it, though…

    1. I am working on a post that answers this a bit. Can we talk more on this question after that?

    1. I have. I draw upon Torture and Eucharist, but I am critical of Hauerwas’s presence in Cavanaugh. I also criticize Milbank’s use of Bulgakov in my essay, even though I have probably been influenced by him in some ways.

    2. I probably owe quite a bit to Hauerwas in that department as well. I had my falling out with him, you might say, as I began working toward my dissertation. My critique of him is that he conceives of the boundary between the church and the secular in such a way that one can only be Christian in “real life” through an act of cognitive dissonance. The stress on Christian identity comes at the cost of authenticity. As a friend of mine put it, the church Hauerwas describes does not actually exist.

    3. How is that concern present in Cavanaugh’s _Torture & Eucharist_? Your criticism is somewhat clear, but I’ve only read C., and not H., so I’m not sure how it plays out. A clarification and an example, perhaps?

    4. I do not have Cavanaugh in front of me at the moment. So I am going to do that thing where I talk about what somebody does in a book without actually citing any part of it. (-: But Cavanaugh does a couple of things that kind of work against each other in his text. First, the way he conceives of the presence of the eternal in the Eucharist is great, but the political implications he derives from it at times risks collapsing the kingdom into the church. While at the same time, in the final chapter of his book, he sometimes almost conflates the church with politically active organizations, so that it becomes hard to distinguish between the two.

      If you look at what Hauerwas does with Augustine in After Christendom, he conflates the kingdom of God with the visible church. But at the same time, he talks about alliances between church and extra-ecclesial organizations without really having any rationale for explaining that alliance. So there is a bit of an ambiguity there that one might arguably see present in Cavanaugh as well.

      But I’m just shooting from the hip, here.


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