Joy Clarkson: Is Re-enchantment Possible? – Piranesi and the Postmodern Condition

Date(s) - April 13, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

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Join us for a lunchtime lecture with Dr. Joy Clarkson on Wednesday, April 13 from 12 pm to 1:30 pm (Pacific Time). This lecture is available online only.


Many authors have argued that modern people experience the world as disenchanted, void of spiritual meaning and transcendent significance, and moreover, that most people do not enjoy this condition. The way forward, however, is not clear. The postmodern suspicion of meta-narratives calls into question the impulse to simply “re-enchant” the world through one’s own powers of projective imagination. Would any project of “re-enchantment” not merely represent an exercise of modern hubris? In this lecture, Dr. Joy Clarkson will examine Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi as a novel which executes a “critique of progress,” by drawing on the work of Owen Barfield, C. S. Lewis, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. She will argue that Clarke presents readers not only with reasons to question the dominance of dis-enchantment, but invites them to experience what an enchanted posture toward the world might be like through the eyes of the narrator of Piranesi. She will explore whether, at the end of this strange little book, it is possible to believe that the world might really be enchanted, that the narrator’s refrain might somehow be true: “The Beauty of the House is immeasurable, its Kindness infinite.”


Joy Clarkson (Phd, University of St Andrews) is the Books and Culture Editor at Plough Quarterly. She hosts Speaking with Joy, a podcast exploring art, theology, and culture, and writes for publications like Christianity TodayMere Orthodoxy, and Transpositions. Her PhD thesis argued that art can prepare people to die a good death, and her overall research focuses on the intersection between literature, moral formation, and devotional practice. She wrote her debut book Aggressively Happy: A Realist’s Guide to Believing in the Goodness of Life (Bethany House Publishers, 2022) because she believes joy is more fundamental than despair. She lives in Oxford, tweets too much, and is probably drinking a cup of Yorkshire Gold Tea at this very moment.


While this online event is free, you must register to attend. Sign up using the button below and you will receive a ticket and your event link.

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