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Book of the Week: Ironies of Faith

Ironies of Faith: The Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature
Author: Dr. Anthony Esolen


In Ironies of Faith, celebrated Dante scholar and translator Anthony Esolen provides a profound meditation upon the use and place of irony in Christian art and in the Christian life. Beginning with an extended analysis of irony as an essentially dramatic device, Esolen explores those manifestations of irony that appear prominently in Christian thinking and art: ironies of time (for Christians believe in divide Providence, but live in a world whose moments pass away); ironies of power (for Christians believe in an almighty God who took on human flesh, and whose “weakness” is stronger than death); ironies of love (for man seldom knows whom to love, or how, or even whom it is that in the depths of his heart he loves best); and the figure of the Child (for Christians believe that unless we become like unto one of these little ones, we shall not enter the Kingdom of God).

Esolen’s finely wrought study draws from Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Mauriac, Milton, Herbert, Hopkins, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky, among others, including the anonymous author of the medieval poemPearl. Such authors, he believes, teach us that the last laugh is on the world, because that grim old world, taking itself so seriously that even its laughter is a sneer, will finally—despite its proud resistance—be redeemed. That is the ultimate irony of faith. (summary courtesy of ISI Books)

What the Critics Said:

“Esolen has still written a significant work that is not only an accessible but also an indispensable encouragement to faith and literary appreciation—awakening us to unsuspected truths that we have been too dulled by habit to notice.”
First Things

“This elegantly written volume will introduce those who think that the church is an irony-free zone to a historic and literate Christianity that searches beyond superficial concepts of irony and mere sarcasm to places of paradox, wisdom, and deep understanding.”
– Frederica Matthewes-Green

“To find the ‘canon’ of Western literature back in the hands, not only of a man who knows that canon, but who also loves it as true of man of letters and as one who unabashedly shares the vision which suffused those centuries, is a pleasure almost beyond telling. Many familiar monuments are here; but there are a few rarities, too: the Corpus Christi cycle; I Promessi Sposi; the exquisite fourteenth-century Pearl; Spenser’s Amoretti. At the risk of sounding frivolous, one really wants to say, ‘Drop everything and read this.’ ”
– Thomas Howard


Read the Introduction in PDF (courtesy of ISI Books).

About the Author:

Anthony Esolen is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization and Ironies of Faith, and the translator and editor of the celebrated three-volume Modern Library edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He is a professor of English at Providence College and a senior editor ofTouchstone magazine. Esolen lives in Rhode Island with his family.

Get a copy from ISI

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