Eucharistic Animals and Hope for Earth (Inner Animalities Book Event)

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This post was written by Jay Emerson Johnson. Jay is a  Professor of Theology and Culture and Academic Director of the Ignite Institute  at the Pacific School of Religion. He is also a member of the core doctoral faculty at the Graduate Theological Union.

The grief I felt after the death of my beloved Australian shepherd dog Tyler, back in 2013, surprised me. Connecting that grief to the leather-sex sub-culture of “pup play” surprised me even more. The link between these emerged from an academic colleague’s suggestion that I might find animal studies an apt complement to queer theory for my constructive theological work.

I adopted Tyler from the local shelter when he was already nine years old. He lived another seven, happy years as my nearly constant companion at both work and play. When the time came to let him go after a period of ill health, I knew it would be difficult but not nearly as gut wrenching as it proved to be. The empty space he left behind prompted more introspection on a whole range of questions than I had expected, including a classic that I had not posed for a long time: do I have something called a “soul” but Tyler did not? More broadly, what exactly have Christian theologians meant by claiming for centuries that God made humanity in God’s own image when at nearly every turn the latest ethological research identifies yet another feature that can no longer belong to humans alone? Continue reading “Eucharistic Animals and Hope for Earth (Inner Animalities Book Event)”

Ecotheological Pathways (Inner Animalities Book Event)

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This response is from Elizabeth Pyne, who is currently an instructor at Fordham University’s London Centre. Her research engages various intersections between theology, feminist and queer theory, and the environmental humanities. 

The beastly desire that animates creaturely communion with the divine; the spirituality of animal instinct – open, sensuous, intelligent; the gaze of animal eyes that cuts through human pretensions to sovereignty; the incarnation of the Logos as an invitation into the “endless animality” of redeemed life; the all- and never-consuming energetic economy of a messianic banquet, a feast of flesh as well as milk and honey, and a festival of intimate exchange. These are a few of the captivating figures of creaturely life that emerge at the end of the human. In the pages of Inner Animalities one encounters a perspicacious and compelling case as to why this end must be – for the sake of all creatures – and an imaginatively rich vision of what it could be. Although I’ve not had occasion to see Eric on form as a wilderness guide, over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of learning from his navigation skills as a fellow traveler in the realm of Christian theological anthropology and creaturely politics. This book is exemplary of what those abilities make possible. Continue reading “Ecotheological Pathways (Inner Animalities Book Event)”

“The only emotionally competent man in three galaxies”: Sarah Jaffe and Adam Kotsko discuss Star Trek: Discovery

[Each week, Sarah Jaffe — a new Star Trek fan who came to the franchise through Discovery — and Adam Kotsko — a long-time obsessive who has spent way too much time thinking about Star Trek — have been chatting about their impressions of the newest episode. Since we fell behind again, this post covers “Project Daedalus” and “The Red Angel.” A full archive can be found here.]

AK:
Hello!

SJ:
HELLO
where should we even begin

AK:
We know where you want to start

SJ:
haha yes but we have two episodes to cover

AK:
All those times I referred to “Robot Head Person” now feel so disrespectful.

Continue reading ““The only emotionally competent man in three galaxies”: Sarah Jaffe and Adam Kotsko discuss Star Trek: Discovery

Can Animals Sin? (Inner Animalities Book Event)

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This response is from James K. Stanescu. He is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Mercer University and blogs at criticalanimal.com.

The first half of Meyer’s book creates a theological archeology of human animality. I mean this very closely to the Agambenian understanding of archeology, in which we must interrogate that which is excluded in the human sciences so that we may actually understand that which has been traditionally included. As Agamben puts it, the point of philosophical archeology “is not properly a past but a moment of arising; however, access to such can only be obtained by returning back to the point where it was covered over and neutralized by tradition” (2009, 105).  As such, Meyer goes to the work of 4th century Christian theologians to trace the ways that animality has been excluded from theology, but also the stubborn fact of our shared animality always reasserting itself. Before I get too far into this engagement with Inner Animalities, I should note that I am not a theologian, or a religious studies scholar. Indeed, I am someone for who, to borrow a phrase from William James, belief in Christian metaphysics is not currently a live option. As such, while I found the archeological work of the first half fascinating, I have more to say about the second half of Meyer’s book. The second half is Meyer’s positive project, in which he seeks a “rethinking of traditional anthropological themes,” so that we can begin a “theological narrative [that] might revolve around human commonality with other animals.” (85) In particular, I am interested in the conception of sin that Meyer forwards. Continue reading “Can Animals Sin? (Inner Animalities Book Event)”

Guilty Pleasures

Last summer, I decided to treat myself on my birthday and get an NES Classic Edition. This miniature gaming system returns us to the world of the original Nintendo, complete with a couple dozen classic games and — crucially — authentic controllers. I went through a phase of downloading videogame emulators in college, which enabled me to play every single system that ever existed (including the Sega Master System, TurboGrafx-16, and Coleco Vision), but the Nintendo experience never felt right without the original controllers. I was, as they say, between projects, and so I spent a couple afternoons working through old favorites — especially games that I had loved but never finished when I was a kid.

Chief among my targets was Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. I played that game so long and so hard that the save-game battery actually ran out. It was the first game I had experienced that felt open-ended, as though the next person you talked to or the next square you walked across could hold untold secrets. It was also incredibly demanding for a young child, with enemies that depleted your experience points if they hit you, caves full of monsters you couldn’t even see until you gained a special power-up, bonuses hidden on arbitrary spots on the world map, and complex mazes that often required you to backtrack (at risk to life and limb). I got Zelda 2 prior to the original Zelda, and to me, the latter never fully lived up to its successor — though I realize that I am in the minority here. In fact, when I have mentioned Zelda 2 in social media threads, people have often expressed bafflement that I could even tolerate the game.

Continue reading “Guilty Pleasures”

Inner Animalities: Book Event Introduction

InnerAnimalitiesCover

Today begins our book event on Eric Meyer’s Inner Animalities: Theology and the End of the Human (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018). Over the next several weeks we will hear responses to Eric’s book from scholars who work in the environmental humanities and animal studies, both within and outside of religious studies and theology: James Stanescu, Elizabeth Pyne, Jay Johnson, Jacob Erickson, and Anthony Paul Smith.

Eric Meyer is an Assistant Professor of Theology at Carroll College, in Helena, Montana. Academically his research and teaching explore the spaces where religious and theological thought traditions intersect with animal studies and the environmental humanities. Outside of academia Eric is an environmental advocate who’s worked in outdoor recreation and wilderness education for more than a decade. Inner Animalities explores the intersections between human and animal forms of life, within human beings. It is a book about, more than anything else, our human animality and (as Eric puts it) “what happens to the parts of ourselves that we hold in common with other creatures” when  “we obsessively differentiate ourselves from them.” (2) What happens, Eric suggests, is that we effectively tear ourselves apart and break ourselves down. For centuries, theology has been generating this break-down on our behalf. But, Eric argues, this has never been necessary to sustain a robust spirituality. In fact, it has probably been inimical to it. He dives back into the Christian theological tradition, to prove this claim. Continue reading “Inner Animalities: Book Event Introduction”

“Nihilistic Squids are my new punk band”: Sarah Jaffe and Adam Kotsko discuss Star Trek: Discovery

[Each week, Sarah Jaffe — a new Star Trek fan who came to the franchise through Discovery — and Adam Kotsko — a long-time obsessive who has spent way too much time thinking about Star Trek — have been chatting about their impressions of the newest episode. Since we fell behind for a few weeks, this post covers “The Sound of Thunder,” “Light and Shadows,” and “If Memory Serves.” A full archive can be found here.]

AK: We have been remiss!

SJ: Too long! My fault, too much travel.
Anyway! I am full of feelings, unsurprisingly.
Revolutionary Saru!

Continue reading ““Nihilistic Squids are my new punk band”: Sarah Jaffe and Adam Kotsko discuss Star Trek: Discovery