How to Build a World in Both History and Fiction

It’s been a month since I’ve posted anything. Goodness. Life sometimes sneaks up on you and then drops a piano on your head. It’s ok, it’s good for the humility. And there may be something in all there about a certain someone being a workaholic incapable of putting limits on himself. But I digress. I’ve been thinking, lately, about the question of worldbuilding. For those who don’t know, it’s a technical term…

Artefact Institute: Don’t Look for Good Culture, Go Make it!

True it is we have seen better days, And have with holy bell been knolled to church, And sat at good men’s feasts, and wiped our eyes Of drops that sacred pity hath engendered.” – As You Like It, William Shakespeare This incredible quote, a jewel among many jewels in Dr. Anthony Esolen’s book Out of the Ashes, is in many ways an encapsulation of what we have lost in our culture. There is…

Talking Culture Creation, Storytelling, and the Artefact Institute on the Areopagus Podcast

Last week I had the great pleasure of being hosted on the Areopagus podcast: Some of the things we talked about culture creation for a… pre-Christian America? religion in Star Trek what’s the deal with my novels? self-referential so-called Christian culture this odd and wonderful thing we’re doing in Louisville in 2020 called Artefact Institute. Click here to go the podcast website, or download the episode in any podcast catcher. I also…

What Art Can and Cannot Do…

This past weekend, I was honored and pleased to take part in Doxamoot, the first ever (as far as I know) Orthodox conference on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. My talk, titled “Why Becoming a Storyteller is the Most Important Thing You May Do With Your Life,” will be available as an audio download at some point soon. Stay tuned. It was an exciting moment of culture-making, where people who…

The Good and the Bad in Postmodern Critiques of Literature

Aristotle’s On Poetics, which I talked about extensively in this post, was basically the first formal analysis of Western literature in history. Not surprisingly, it was also instrumental in the formation of the Western canon of literature. His definition of literature as having the power to change the reader is peerless. As long as writers kept, for the most part, to his principles, literature held a place of prominence in Western civilization.…

Did We Create Culture in Saratov?

This past month, I had the enormous privilege and joy of taking part in a new recording of sacred music in the provincial Russian city of Saratov. This was the second such project, hosted by the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute (PaTRAM). The first occurred three years ago, a project which included 41 singers from three different countries singing together for the first time. That recording later won a Grammy nomination, only…

Saint Olga, Creative Wells, and Plans for the Future

When I started this blog a few months back, I intended it primarily as a useful and interesting way to prepare for my lecture at AFCon 2019. Well, it was that and more. Thank you to all of you who have left comments and sent me emails before and after AFCon. As I thought, the idea of culture creation is something that many of you feel is significant, even if some of…

What is Art? Part II of an Essay by Ivan Ilyin

Last week, I posted an excerpt from a wonderful essay by Ivan Ilyin. Although sometimes his language verges on the kind of “epicness” that people nowadays tend to laugh at, what he says is important. Even people who write primarily as a source of income are forced, sooner or later, to come to terms with their legacy, with what it means to be an artist. He reminds us, first and foremost, that…

What is Art? Part 1 of an Essay by Ivan Ilyin

What do you think is the most common essay title in the history of literature? I don’t know. But if I were to guess, I’d say it would be “What is art?” No one wonders about “what is art” more than artists. We can’t help ourselves. We want to know that the long hours of giving birth to our thoughts and our words are actually worth something. In our time, when people…

The Spiritual Meaning of Stories

More and more people are willing to accept the fact that fairy tales are not merely for children.However, there’s still often a stigma attached to stories as “not serious literature.” (Take this recent article, for example).  Tolkien argued against this elitism in his wonderful essay “On Fairy Stories.” C. S. Lewis wrote about it often as well. Lisa Cron writes about it in her wonderful book Story Genius (highly recommended!) Recently, I came across…