Ben-Hur (1959), Jaws (1975), Avatar (2009), Wonder Woman (2017): the blockbuster movie has held a dominant position in American popular culture for decades. In American Blockbuster Charles R. Acland charts the origins, impact, and dynamics of this most visible, entertaining, and disparaged cultural form. Acland narrates how blockbusters emerged from Hollywood's turn to a hit-driven focus during the industry's business crisis in the 1950s. Movies became bigger, louder, and more spectacular. They also became prototypes for ideas and commodities associated with the future of technology and culture, accelerating the prominence of technological innovation in modern American life. Acland shows that blockbusters continue to be more than just movies; they are industrial strategies and complex cultural machines designed to normalize the ideologies of our technological age.
“The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by ‘the disenchantment of the world.’” Max Weber’s statement remains a dominant interpretation of the modern condition: the increasing capabilities of knowledge and science have banished mysteries, leaving a world that can be mastered technically and intellectually. And though this idea seems empowering, many people have become disenchanted with modern disenchantment. Using intimate encounters with works of art to explore disenchantment and the possibilities of re-enchantment, Arts of Wonder addresses questions about the nature of humanity, the world, and God in the wake of Weber’s diagnosis of modernity.
Jeffrey L. Kosky focuses on a handful of artists—Walter De Maria, Diller + Scofidio, James Turrell, and Andy Goldsworthy—to show how they introduce spaces hospitable to mystery and wonder, redemption and revelation, and transcendence and creation. What might be thought of as religious longings, he argues, are crucial aspects of enchanting secularity when developed through encounters with these works of art. Developing a model of religion that might be significant to secular culture, Kosky shows how this model can be employed to deepen interpretation of the art we usually view as representing secular modernity. A thoughtful dialogue between philosophy and art, Arts of Wonder will catch the eye of readers of art and religion, philosophy of religion, and art criticism.
In The Cow in the Elevator Tulasi Srinivas explores a wonderful world where deities jump fences and priests ride in helicopters to present a joyful, imaginative, yet critical reading of modern religious life. Drawing on nearly two decades of fieldwork with priests, residents, and devotees, and her own experience of living in the high-tech city of Bangalore, Srinivas finds moments where ritual enmeshes with global modernity to create wonder—a feeling of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime. Offering a nuanced account of how the ruptures of modernity can be made normal, enrapturing, and even comical in a city swept up in globalization's tumult, Srinivas brings the visceral richness of wonder—apparent in creative ritual in and around Hindu temples—into the anthropological gaze. Broaching provocative philosophical themes like desire, complicity, loss, time, money, technology, and the imagination, Srinivas pursues an interrogation of wonder and the adventure of writing true to its experience. The Cow in the Elevator rethinks the study of ritual while reshaping our appreciation of wonder's transformative potential for scholarship and for life.
A Medieval King Who Embraced the Arts and Sciences
One of the most remarkable personalities of the Middle Ages, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen was born in 1194. His parents—the reigning Holy Roman Emperor and the heiress to the Kingdom of Sicily—belonged to two of the leading ruling families in medieval Europe. The lands controlled by these two families extended from southern Denmark to Sicily, from modern Belgium to Bohemia. Frederick II eventually ruled the joint kingdom, and the story of how he gained and maintained this status is the primary thread running through his life. As a child in Sicily, Frederick was a ward of Pope Innocent III. When he came of age, he sought to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor but only succeeded in 1220 after many years of negotiations with the Vatican, which was reluctant to give up or share power. Resenting the influence and pressure from the papacy, Frederick became its leading opponent. As a result, the new pope, Gregory IX, condemned Frederick as the Antichrist. However, Frederick believed he was a sincere Christian, and led the Sixth Crusade to the Holy Land while under excommunication.
As a ruler, Frederick was unusually modern in his sensibilities. Sicily was a cultural melting pot in the thirteenth century and Frederick ended up speaking several languages. He protected Jews and Muslims in his realms and prosecuted Christian heretics throughout his thirty-year reign. Frederick was married three times, and had four legitimate and eleven illegitimate children. He was a polymath with interests ranging from sculpture, architecture, and poetry to mathematics and science in many forms, earning him admiration from his contemporaries who called him Stupor mundi, “Wonder of the World.” His lifelong interest in hunting with birds of prey led to the writing of the classic work De Arte Venandi cum Avibus (The Art of Falconry), which is still in print. Based on the latest scholarship and written for the general reader, Frederick II: The Wonder of the World by Richard Bressler provides the complete story of this complex and fascinating man.
This is the first official prayerbook for young children ever produced by the Reform Movement. Intended for pre-school children through six years of age, Gates of Wonder is beautifully illustrated by award-winning artist Neil Waldman. As young children enter the Gates of Wonder they will experience a world of beauty, a world of mystery and the enduring world of Jewish prayer.
A masterwork of history and cultural studies, Marvelous Possessions is a brilliant meditation on the interconnected ways in which Europeans of the Age of Discovery represented non-European peoples and took possession of their lands, particularly in the New World. In a series of innovative readings of travel narratives, judicial documents, and official reports, Stephen Greenblatt shows that the experience of the marvelous, central to both art and philosophy, was manipulated by Columbus and others in the service of colonial appropriation. Much more than simply a collection of the odd and exotic, Marvelous Possessions is both a highly original extension of Greenblatt’s thinking on a subject that has permeated his career and a thrilling tale of wandering, kidnapping, and go-betweens—of daring improvisation, betrayal, and violence. Reaching back to the ancient Greeks, forward to the present, and, in his new preface, even to fantastical meetings between humans and aliens in movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Greenblatt would have us ask: How is it possible, in a time of disorientation, hatred of the other, and possessiveness, to keep the capacity for wonder—for tolerant recognition of cultural difference—from being poisoned?
Marvelous Possessions is a study of the ways in which Europeans of the late Middle Ages and the early modern period represented non-European peoples and took possession of their lands, in particular the New World.
In a series of innovative readings of travel narratives, judicial documents, and official reports, Stephen Greenblatt shows that the experience of the marvelous, central to both art and philosophy, was cunningly yoked by Columbus and others to the service of colonial appropriation. He argues that the traditional symbolic actions and legal rituals through which European sovereignty was asserted were strained to the breaking point by the unprecedented nature of the discovery of the New World. But the book also shows that the experience of the marvelous is not necessarily an agent of empire: in writers as different as Herodotus, Jean de Léry, and Montaigne—and notably in Mandeville's Travels, the most popular travel book of the Middle Ages—wonder is a sign of a remarkably tolerant recognition of cultural difference.
Marvelous Possession is not only a collection of the odd and exotic through which Stephen Greenblatt powerfully conveys a sense of the marvelous, but also a highly original extension of his thinking on a subject that has occupied him throughout his career. The book reaches back to the ancient Greeks and forward to the present to ask how it is possible, in a time of disorientation, hatred of the other, and possessiveness, to keep the capacity for wonder from being poisoned?
"A marvellous book. It is also a compelling and a powerful one. Nothing so original has ever been written on European responses to 'The wonder of the New World.'"—Anthony Pagden, Times Literary Supplement
"By far the most intellectually gripping and penetrating discussion of the relationship between intruders and natives is provided by Stephen Greenblatt's Marvelous Possessions."—Simon Schama, The New Republic
"For the most engaging and illuminating perspective of all, read Marvelous Possessions."—Laura Shapiro, Newsweek
The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is a slice of classic Oregon: due east of Eugene in the Cascade Mountains, it comprises 15,800 acres of the Lookout Creek watershed. The landscape is steep, with hills and deep valleys and cold, fast-running streams. The densely forested landscape includes cedar, hemlock, and moss-draped Douglas fir trees. One of eighty-one USDA experimental forests, the Andrews is administered cooperatively by the US Forest Service, OSU, and the Willamette National Forest. While many Oregonians may think of the Andrews simply as a good place to hike, research on the forest has been internationally acclaimed, has influenced Forest management, and contributed to our understanding of healthy forests.
In A Place for Inquiry, A Place for Wonder, historian William Robbins turns his attention to the long-overlooked Andrews Forest and argues for its importance to environmental science and policy. From its founding in 1948, the experimental forest has been the site of wide-ranging research. Beginning with postwar studies on the conversion of old-growth timber to fast-growing young stands, research at the Andrews shifted in the next few decades to long-term ecosystem investigations that focus on climate, streamflow, water quality, vegetation succession, biogeochemical cycling, and effects of forest management. The Andrews has thus been at the center of a dramatic shift in federal timber practices from industrial, intensive forest management policies to strategies emphasizing biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.
Often science and religion are seen as completely separate entities. Science exists in the realm of fact, whereas religion exists in the realm of faith. Conversations about genes, psychology, or even the meaning of life occur in silos. But as Eric Priest, Keith Ward, David Myers, N. T. Wright, and others show, these conversations are so much richer when both science and faith are incorporated.
This is exactly what Reason and Wonder does. Eric Priest has brought together twelve of the leading thinkers in science and theology to discuss everything from the origins of the universe to evolution and evil. At the heart of each essay is an understanding that the best science—and the best theology— are both undergirded by an appeal to reason as well as a deep sense of wonder.
Each of these great scientific and theological thinkers offers a chapter on their area of expertise, and the book closes with a stimulating set of questions for group discussion or personal reflection.
Contributors and their topics include:
Eric Priest: Towards an integration of science and religion
Keith Ward: God, science and the New Atheism
Eleonore Stump: Natural law, reductionism and the Creator
David Wilkinson: The origin and end of the universe: A challenge for Christianity
Jennifer Wiseman: Universe of wonder, universe of life
Kenneth R. Miller: Evolution, faith and science
Michael J. Murray and Jeff Schloss: Evolution and evil
Pauline Rudd: Is there more to life than genes?
David G. Myers: Psychological science meets Christian faith
John Wyatt: Being a person: Towards an integration of neuroscientific and Christian perspectives
John Swinton: From projection to connection: Conversations between science, spirituality and health
Mark Harris: Do the miracles of Jesus contradict science?
N. T. Wright: Can a scientist trust the New Testament?
On the wings of Laura Erickson’s award-winning book For the Birds comes Sharing the Wonder of Birds with Kids. Easy and fun to use, Sharing the Wonder is a delightful book that helps caring adults introduce kids to the fascinating world of birds.
Chock-full of creative activities, this hands-on guide goes way beyond teaching bird identification. In her light-hearted style, Erickson paves the way for children to discover—with a little help from you—the beauty and significance of birds, how their bodies work, why they behave as they do, and why it’s critical to protect and care for them.
Sharing the Wonder of Birds with Kids will show you how to kindle children’s interest in birds, giving them the joy and pride of discovering these natural treasures for themselves.
For decades, Rex Nelson has been traveling Arkansas. He learned to love the back roads, small towns, and people of the state while going on trips with his father, who sold athletic supplies to high schools. They sat in old Depression-era gyms built by the Works Progress Administration, ate in small-town cafes, and waded in streams on warm spring days.
Throughout his career as a sportswriter, political writer, senior staff member in the governor’s office, presidential appointee to the Delta Regional Authority, and now corporate communications director for Simmons Bank, Nelson has written millions of words about Arkansas and its people.
In this collection of columns from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nelson brings to life the personalities, communities, festivals, and tourist attractions that make Arkansas unique. As he says, “Arkansas is a hard place to explain to outsiders. We’re mostly Southern but also a bit Midwestern and a tad Southwestern. The Ozarks are different from the pine woods of the Gulf Coastal Plain, and the Delta is different from the Ouachitas. Invariably, though, those who take the time to get off the main roads and get to know the real Arkansas are entranced by the place.”
For more than twenty years now, Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune has explored how architecture captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Kamin treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Terror and Wonder gathers the best of Kamin’s writings from the past decade along with new reflections on an era framed by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the opening of the world’s tallest skyscraper.
Assessing ordinary commercial structures as well as head-turning designs by some of the world’s leading architects, Kamin paints a sweeping but finely textured portrait of a tumultuous age torn between the conflicting mandates of architectural spectacle and sustainability. For Kamin, the story of our built environment over the past ten years is, in tangible ways, the story of the decade itself. Terror and Wonder considers how architecture has been central to the main events and crosscurrents in American life since 2001: the devastating and debilitating consequences of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; the real estate boom and bust; the use of over-the-top cultural designs as engines of civic renewal; new challenges in saving old buildings; the unlikely rise of energy-saving, green architecture; and growing concern over our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
A prominent cast of players—including Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry, Helmut Jahn, Daniel Libeskind, Barack Obama, Renzo Piano, and Donald Trump—fills the pages of this eye-opening look at the astounding and extraordinary ways that architecture mirrors our values—and shapes our everyday lives.