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Beauty engages fourth-century bishop Gregory of Nyssa to address beauty's place in theology and the broader world. With the recent resurgence of attention to beauty among theologians, questions still remain about what exactly beauty is, how it is perceived, and whether we should celebrate its return. If beauty fell out of favor because it was seen to distract from the weightier concerns of poverty and suffering--because it can even be a tool of oppression--why should we laud it now? Gregory's writings offer surprisingly rich and relevant reflections that can move contemporary conversations beyond current impasses and critiques of beauty. Drawing Gregory into conversation with such disparate voices as novelist J. M. Coetzee and art theorist Kaja Silverman, Beauty displays the importance of beauty to theology and theology to beauty in a discussion that bridges ancient and modern, practical and theoretical, secular and religious. "A compelling exploration of Gregory of Nyssa as theologian of the divine beauty. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of Gregory's writings, Natalie Carnes shows how the themes of fittingness and gratuity take us deep into the heart of his Trinitarian vision. To know God's beauty is to be wounded--and transformed. A remarkable achievement." --Joseph L. Mangina, Wycliffe College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada "Natalie Carnes has written a remarkable book--in its range, its learning and its imaginative sweep. All good history and theology thrive on imaginative engagement--while beauty is most enticing when it is veiled and presented as a mystery. Gregory of Nyssa emerges from these pages as a writer and theologian for our time, at once ancient and postmodern." --David Jasper, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK "Attentive, as many recent theological writers are not, to the dangers of beauty and of the ideologizing of beauty in bourgeois discourse, [Carnes] takes us from the modern alternatives of functionality or distinterestedness to the complementarity of gratuity and fittingness. Through Gregory's writings this is shown to illuminate both the sufferings of Christ and, poignantly, the human sufferings exemplified by his sister's breast cancer. The book reminds those of us who have read less of Gregory than we should have how much we are missing." --George Pattison, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK "Beauty is a singular achievement. It retrieves from Gregory key Trinitarian insights and constructively recasts them in the service of delineating a vision of beauty that speaks to our time. . . . 'Fittingness' and 'gratuity' are key to Carnes's theological investigation, categories that she refracts in three primary ways: first, theologically, according to Gregory's doctrine of God . . . second, christologically, according to the way that we confront in the person of Jesus of Nazareth an unsettling juxtaposition of beauty and poverty; and third, pneumatologically, according to the workings of the Holy Spirit who schools us to recognize beauty anew through a wounding of the self, achieved by means of suffering and love of neighbor." --Jim Fodor, St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, NY Natalie Carnes is Assistant Professor of Theology at Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
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