Introduction and Inculturation
I am delighted to have joined Pontifex University’s faculty, overseeing its teaching of literature. By way of introduction I thought I would set out some basic ideas that have attracted me to the study and practice of this subject and to working with Pontifex.
An important distinction from other literature or art history courses is that both David Clayton and I are practicing artists. So the theoretical issues which concern us are those which come up when faced with an empty space in which to make our contribution to the great inheritance of the Western tradition of art and literature. And of course the primary concern for us in the modern secular West is the relationship of our art to our faith, and therefore how our art in theory and practice relates to the theory and practice of the art of the secular world around us.
The first thought I would like to entertain is the one that I address in the final chapter of my book, “The Spiritual History of English.” This is my analytic work, considering the spiritual and historical circumstances in which we find ourselves, which I will be establishing a course around. My existing Pontifex course “The Romance of the Soul” is my synthetic work, suggesting a theoretical and aesthetic response to these circumstances, based on the current mind of the Church, and especially the Theology of the Nuptial Mystery, which has developed in the context of the sexual revolution in modern society. My poems are collected in my book “The Walled Garden.”And the thought that I address in that final chapter is the one of “inculturation.”
The modern artist or writer of faith has to inculturate his faith and work into the culture and the artistic forms of modern society in exactly the same way that a missionary has to inculturate his message into that of an alien culture. For that is exactly the circumstance that we face today, an alien culture, albeit one formed historically by our faith; and our challenge is to make our work “relevant,” comprehensible and attractive to the modern consumer of that work, without diluting its content or alienating ourselves. This is the subject I will be addressing in these blog posts and in my courses at Pontifex, and I look forward hopefully to you joining me there.