Category Archives: Aesthetics

New CoTP site: redesign & functionality

It’s been a while in the making, but I’ve finally launched the new redesign for the Centre of Theology and Philosophy.  It’s now on WordPress (instead of some weird hybrid of Movable Type like it was before), and I’ve added some new functionality here and there.  There’s a new post with details, and if you had previously subscribed to the site’s RSS feed, that has now been moved to this URL.

The publications page probably took me the longest to make, as I’ve integrated a lot of fun MooTools stuff.  Basically there are now almost 200 publications in the system–previously it was woefully out of date–and there are different ways to browse (full details with link to Google Books preview if available, or covers only), and it’s just kind of snazzy.  I think so, anyway!

Of excellent book covers

Tiana and I just got back from a two-week trip to the States.  This was our first trip home since we moved to Nottingham in August 2008.  We visited Cincinnati, OH and while in California, San Diego, Merced, and Concord.  While in San Diego I visited the new Theology building on the Point Loma Nazarene University Campus.  I was able to see a good handful of my old MA professors, and before leaving, I managed to catch Dr. Michael Lodahl, my professor for my History of Christian Thought I & II classes.

Glancing around his bookshelf, I noticed that he had several copies of the new edition of his The Story of God: A Narrative Theology book.  The first one came out in 1994 (with the different subtitle “Wesleyan Theology & Biblical Narrative”) and has been assigned in many undergraduate Nazarene theology departments.  However, being a computer science undergrad, I was never assigned the book, nor did I ever get around to reading it in between my forray into theology since then.  What immediately struck me was how incredibly, vastly improved the new cover of the book was.  Here it is below:

And here is a link to a picture of the old one.  As you can see, ridiculously improved.  Not only that, but it’s about one of the coolest book covers I’ve ever seen.

There is a brief but interesting write-up of the process of this cover’s creation over on the Face Out Books website.

[If I ever got into Jules Verne, this would definitely be the set to get (with covers designed by the same place), don’t you think?]

“Kierkegaard” and the collapsing of ironic distance?

In an article, Kierkegaard says that if the second edition of Practice in Christianity were being published for the first time, it would not

have been by a pseudonym, but by myself . . . Earlier, my idea had been that if the established order could be defended, this was the only way of doing so: by poetically (therefore, by a pseudonym) passing judgment upon it. . . . Now, on the other hand, I am completely convinced of two things: both that, from a Christian point of view, the established order is untenable and that every day it exists is, from the Christian point of view, a crime; and that one may not call upon grace in this manner.  Therefore, take the pseudonymity away; take away the thrice-repeated preface and the ‘Moral’ to the first section—then, from a Christian point of view, Practice in Christianity is an attack on the established order (As quoted in Joakim Garff, Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography, trans. Bruce H. Kirmmse [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005], p. 751, emphasis mine).

Nonetheless, prior to this, Kierkegaard appended an unpaginated “A First and Last Declaration” to the end of Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments–where he ‘outs’ himself as the author behind the pseudonyms–which contains the request, “If it should occur to anyone to want to quote a particular passage from the [pseudonymous] books, it is my wish, my prayer, that he will do me the kindness of citing the respective pseudonymous author’s name, not mine.”

However, as Garff points out, when Practice in Christianity was originally sent to press, it was veronymously written by Kierkegaard.  It was only at the last minute that Kierkegaard changed the authorship to Anti-Climacus, “because Kierkegaard’s own ‘existence’ did not live up to the radical Christian requirements in the work” (p. 630-2).  As Garff points out, this change was fueled more but personal concerns regarding Kierkegaard and not maieutic considerations concerning the reader.

Even if Kierkegaard wants us to now read Practice in Christianity with the pseudonymity ‘taken away’, ultimately, Anti-Climacus’ point remains concerning indirect communication in the section on the “Categories of Offense.”  If we take Anti-Climacus off the title page and replace it with the original “S. Kierkegaard,” the case holds that we are still receiving a communication from an indirect communicator—the God-man.  Kierkegaard had exhausted—in fact literally and ironically emptied—the tool of pseudonymity of its usefulness.  Garff also states that toward the end, “Kierkegaard continually adjusted his [pseudonymous] writings so that they corresponded as precisely as possible to his own position.”  As Kierkegaard stated in the conclusion to his dissertation, “Irony as the negative is the way; it is not the truth but the way.”

[This has been adapted from part of my in-progress MA thesis.]

Judging a Cover by Its Book

I am no stranger to book covers. Having designed the covers in two book series, this has sparked some fun discussions with my friend Kaz over the evolution of cover design, especially in theology and philosophy books.

Most book covers until recent times have been about careful text placement on usually a single-color background. To illustrate just a few examples, see, for instance, the bright red cover to the Krell-edited Basic Writings of Heidegger; the simple large text upon white of Charles Taylor’s Hegel and Modern Society; the original cover to Hauerwas’ The Peaceable Kingdom, which ups the ante a bit by applying a radial orange-yellow gradient; the highly recognizeable two-tone covers of Princeton’s Kierkegaard Writings series with SK’s portrait at the two-tone intersection. And from here, more multi-tone and pictures are introduced so that there really does not seem to be much of a limit in design any longer, outside of the usual printing costs.

Enter Continuum Press, namely, their Continuum Impacts series. These are reprints of well-known philosophical texts that have already established themselves in the history of philosophy, most of them being within the wider contintental tradition, with plenty of exceptions, theological and otherwise (Erasmus and Luther on Free Will, Barth, Schillebeeckx, Gandhi, et. al.). To see a slapdash view of all of the covers in this series, click here (after quickly extracting all the ISBN’s, I whipped up a short PHP script to display all the books in the series).

I’m curious, what do you think about the covers in this series? What say you?!

Update: Anthony has alerted me to a post he wrote three years ago on the same subject, with funny and appropriate commentary worth checking out.