Review: Ironies of Faith: The Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature by Anthony Esolen

Anyone who has had even casual contact with literary theory as it exists today has seen at least a bit of the nonsense that gets passed off as credible thought these days. There are the feminist critiques of Dante, the Marxist critiques of Chaucer, and even the idea that William Shakespeare might have been an agnostic. In other words, there is the rampant and unapologetic lack of ability to understand and appreciate the great literature of Christendom, of Western Civilization, (our civilization) on its own terms.

Anthony Esolen offers an excellent starting part from which to embark on the struggle to restore Western literature — and Western civilization more generally — to its proper, Christian context. It is time we let Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Spencer, and the rest finally begin to speak for themselves again and be understood on their own terms rather than through the lens of postmodern despair and decay. Theirs was, after all, a more vibrant, playful, creative, and lively time. Perhaps if we allow their words to be heard and understood clearly and so allow their spirit to enter us, perhaps — just perhaps — we might imbibe some of their power and rejuvenate ourselves.

Esolen begins us down their path through this book, a series of meditations on the ironies of the Christian faith and how these ironies have been presented and celebrated in Christian literature throughout our history as a distinct culture. Along the way, Esolen offers excellent insight into what separates the time of Christianity from those times which preceded in the classical world and those which are attempting to usurp it in the modern. He offers a wealth of insight into the heart of the Christian faith itself, highlighting its ironies and its wonders.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in literature and in the revivifying of Western civilization.

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