Archives For The Other Journal


Interview with Michelle Brown

In the new book “The Culture of Punishment” (NYU Press), criminologist Michelle Brown—an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ohio University—considers the intersection between culture and punishment, where “much of the popular knowledge about punishment is constructed.” Brown takes readers to the places where punishment is most likely to be accessed, including film, television, and the unfailingly popular prison tour, providing unique insights into how and why America has become the most punitive nation on earth.

Failure interviewed Brown to learn more about the consequences of mass incarceration, the challenges of getting Americans to reflect on the country’s approach to punishment, and to find out how her students react when given the opportunity to visit a death chamber.

F: What prompted you to write “The Culture of Punishment”?

MB:The idea developed across time, but once I began pursuing a degree in criminology it became clear that punishment was overlooked—not just theoretically but culturally. During the past ten years, I’ve spent a lot of time in prisons doing work with both prisoners and staff, and I became fascinated with the engagements between the people with whom I was interacting and what I was seeing in popular culture.

Read the full interview:

The Culture of Punishment:
Prison, Society, and Spectacle.

Michelle Brown.
Paperback: NYU Press, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

The Church and Postmodern Culture Blog
Interviews the Authors of the new book:
‘God is Dead’ and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself

Hands down, my favorite book title of this year is the new volume from the folks at The Other Journal: ‘God is Dead’ and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself: Theological Engagements with the New Atheism, edited by Andrew David, Chris Keller, and Jon Stanley.

In addition to having a great title, you get an added bonus: it’s also a fabulous book!  Rather than playing the apologetic game on the new atheists’ rules, this volume brings together a creative mix of genres (essays, interviews, art and poetry) in a constructive vision that is only obliquely a ‘response’ to the new atheism.  And it includes some of the most significant voices in contemporary thought, including Charles Taylor, Stanley Fish, John Milbank, Merold Westphal, Luci Shaw, Stanley Hauerwas, and many others.

So I thought I’d pose a few questions to a couple of the editors, Chris Keller and Jon Stanley.  I hope you’ll enjoy listening in on the conversation.

JKAS: This book grows out of articles that originally appeared in The Other Journal.  Could you tell us a little bit about the journal?  How’d it get started?  What defines it?

Read the full interview:

‘God is Dead’ and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself.
David, Keller and Stanley, eds.

Paperback: Wipf and Stock, 2010.
Buy now: [ Wipf and Stock ] Use code ‘GID10’ for 40% discount!


The Other Journal has recently published a wonderful two-part interview with Kathleen Norris about her new book Acedia and Me, which you do not want to miss!!!

The Other Journal (TOJ): Hi, Kathleen. We’re really interested in your new book Acedia and Me. Also, a lot of our readers are going into church leadership positions or are interested in current trends in theology, so we are really excited to hear your perspective on things. Thank you very much.

Kathleen Norris (KN): Oh, great! I am interested, of course, in anything that talks about theology and culture.

TOJ: When I read Acedia and Me, I found myself feeling two emotions: relief and astonishment. I was relieved that someone had named this thing and astounded at how pervasive acedia had become. It was a little bit like finding one ant in the bedroom and then on further investigation finding a million ants in the bedroom! The more I read this book, the more I really did agree with the nun that warned you about the danger of approaching acedia—1

KN: Yes, I brought her up because to me, that’s it. Sometimes, some of the audiences I’ve had have said, “Is there anything positive about acedia that you can learn from it?” No. I think you just learn from the discipline. Like the desert monks say, “Prayer is warfare to the last breath.” So, there are some positive things, but I tell them that acedia is about the most negative thing I can imagine. It disconnects you from yourself, from other people, from God. It’s an incredibly negative thing. I really can’t think of a real positive spin on it. I can’t think of one.

TOJ: I was fascinated with the fact that it really is one of the most negative things yet also one of the most subtle and invisible things. It seems that it may also be the easiest thing to pass over; because it doesn’t wear a bright uniform, it blends in with the background really well.

KN: The best writing on acedia is really from the fourth century. You can’t beat Evagrius. He’s so good.

I, also, was so enchanted to find the great Canadian novelist Robertson Davies’s statement—if you look at my “commonplace book,” at the end of the book, I’ve included an excerpt from him. He really captures it, exactly what acedia is and how it works.2 He shows how it really kind of creeps up on us; we don’t quite know what it is and how devastating it is. And here he is, a fairly secular writer, I believe, in a speech he gave called “The Deadliest of the Sins,” and somehow, he understood what acedia was better than most—that is such a great description of acedia.

The reason that commonplace book exists, of course, is because I was collecting material on this for twenty years. I just kept finding things and then finding more things. That speech was actually a fairly late find for me. It was a speech he’d given, and it was collected in a book of his essays and speeches, miscellany kind of stuff.

TOJ: I remember following up on interviews with you over the years, and you occasionally mentioned that you were going to write a book on sloth.

KN: That was the easiest way to describe what I was trying to do, to talk about sloth, because if I said acedia, unless the person that I was talking to was Benedictine or a Trappist, they would have no idea what I meant. So that was the way I chose to talk about it. I would say sloth or spiritual sloth and then people could kind of connect, but normally the word acedia, for reasons I explain in the book, has been kind of lost to us. It’s not a familiar term.

 Read the full interview:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Acedia and Me:
A Marriage, Monks and A Writer’s Life.

Kathleen Norris.

Hardcover. Riverhead Books. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $21 ] [ Amazon ]