John Wilson and Stan Guthrie talk about a new publication: Englewood Review of Books.
The Englewood Review of Books is based out of Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis. How about that: a Christian church starts a book review, in Indiana of all places! Indianapolis is a city, but I can’t help by think this whole project, with its midwestern roots, might be something akin to what I have called the “rural Enlightenment.”
Chris Smith says
Chris Smith, here, editor of the Englewood Review of Books. Thanks for your plug for this podcast. I'm curious however how you define “rural enlightenment”?
We at Englewood Christian Church certainly have an interest in agrarian thought, but by virtue of the place where we exist are decidedly urban (Our neighborhood is a typical urban neighborhood, abandoned by white flight, one of the highest rates of abandoned housing in the nation, crime, drugs, etc.) As much as we love the work of Wendell Berry, the work of Jane Jacobs is proving to be even more helpful to us in discerning our way in this urban place.
Would love to hear more of what you mean by rural enlightenment, and why you think it pertains to us?
John Fea says
Chris: Thanks for the comment. I coined the phrase “rural Enlightenment” in my 2008 (2009pb) book *The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in America (U of Pennsylvania Press).
In the book, I use the phrase in a very specific contextualized way to describe how ideas, reading, print culture, intellectual friendship, and community emerged among a group of young people (nearly all of whom were Presbyterians) in the remote southern New Jersey countryside, away from the centers of eighteenth-century cosmopolitan learning like Philadelphia. The circle surrounding Fithian was literally “rural.”
Yet, I think the idea of a “rural Enlightenment” can be used to describe a cosmopolitan place in a region of the world, or even a city (Indianapolis?), that is outside of the country's dominant cultural centers.
So when John Wilson described your place-centered and community-centered project, I immediately thought about the concept of “rural Enlightenment,” even though I am aware that Indianapolis is an urban area.
My use of the term “rural Enlightenment” to describe the Englewood Christian Church is not perfect, but I think it fits the bill in the sense that you are engaging a cosmopolitan world of ideas from a specific locale, or what I call in the book “cosmopolitan rootedness.”
Chris Smith says
Thanks, that makes more sense now.
Would love to read your book at some point! The premise as you described it is intriguing…