By: Emily Church
To start off the academic year, Professor Casey Andrews and Thom Caraway invited faculty, students, and community members to share in their excitement over the current research projects.
Professor Andrews presentation, “Writing Against War: Literature as Peace Activism,” gave us a sneak-peak into his upcoming book (the cover of which his wife painted) about the ways in which British novelists like Virginia Woolf and Aldous Huxley wrote peace activist fiction in the 1930s.”His research dives into the question of “How can art be clearly political and also “artful”?” Virginia Woolf, who is the center piece of the book, criticized all writers who wrote books that were composed of endings that made the reader feel like they had to act by doing a certain service or by writing a check. She instead vouched for the type of writing that had politics in it, since you can’t avoid politics or social issues, but not a clear message. This is what, in Woolf’s opinion allowed it to still function as art. Another one of the points in the presentation looked at literature as “peace witness.” British author Vera Brittan, and her novel Testament of Youth, thought of war literature as a way of preserving the memory of our suffering so that successors may understand it. Andrews expressed a clear excitement over his topic, which was expected as this is within his area of expertise and Virginia Woolf is among his favorite writers. (Andrew’s book cover can be view here)
Professor Thom Caraway’s presentation and research, titled “Poesis: The Language of Creation” did not emerge from a past interest in the subject. Instead, his path towards the topic began with a simple text message from a college and friend that said, “Theopoetics?” to which Caraway eventually replied back “Yes.” He began his talk with the disclaimer of “I am not a theologian,” in order to make it clear that he is still in the learning process. While most approach the topic of theopoetics with a theological background, Caraway comes from the expertise of poetry, which allowed him to focus on the use of the word “poetics.” The goal of theopoetics is to see both scripture and God with fresh eyes, recontextualize our understanding of faith, and demytholize scripture; all through the use of poetry, which for Caraway is perfect because according to him, “poetry is the purest kind of literary writing.” He connected Theopoetics to specifically poetry of witness, defined as poetry speaking to the truth of experience and the realization of God’s revelation. In both contexts, Caraway made clear, it is the responsibility of the reader to witness to the text and they therefore cannot remain passive. It is only in this way that theopoetics and poetry of witness can be successful.
If you wish to learn more about either of the topics presented during the Faculty Research Presentations, I’m sure they would be happy to share more.
Emily Church (’17) is an English Writing and Sociology major at Whitworth University from western Washington and dreams of one day traveling the world. She enjoys writing, reading, painting, collecting journals (not writing in them), fall leaves, summer warmth., and adventure.