Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Paul V. Griffith

Critical Reading

John Kaltner’s focused analysis of Islam’s sacred text offers insight and corrects misunderstandings

February 10, 2011 According to John Kaltner, most Americans have no idea what’s in the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred text. That doesn’t stop many of them from having an opinion, however. The Muslim faith is regularly denigrated as inherently sexist, violent, and inflexible. In an effort to correct such misunderstandings, Kaltner, a professor of Muslim-Christian relations at Rhodes College in Memphis, has written Introducing the Qur’an for Today’s Reader, a critical reading of the Qur’an that focuses on some of the text’s more controversial themes.

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Holy War, Popular War

In a comprehensive history of the First Crusade, Jay Rubenstein weighs in on Apocalyptic fever, the advent of chivalric warfare, and the power of popular religion

January 31, 2012 Of all the sayings about history––it’s one damned thing after another; it’s written by the winners, it’s doomed to repeat itself––none is more incriminating than the one attributed to Lenin: A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. Knoxville historian Jay Rubenstein takes this phenomenon into account in Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse.

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The People’s Philosopher

Noam Chomsky talks with Chapter 16 about the Occupy movement, the language of popular culture, and Gen Y

January 12, 2012 During the mid-60s, Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar changed forever the debate about language acquisition and provided philosophers and psychologists a new way to think about the human mind. Chomsky’s work had political implications, too, and he has emerged as one of the left’s most implacable voices, challenging the often hidden structures that lie behind the abuse of power. Noam Chomsky will discuss the Occupy Movement in a talk at Rhodes College in Memphis on January 13 at 5 p.m.

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True Romance

In Washed in the Blood, Lisa Alther tells a sweeping tale of racial and familial ambiguity

November 21, 2011 In her new novel, Kingsport native Lisa Alther uses as a plot device the racial and familial intermarriage that was once common in the Appalachians. Combining the factual relevance of a history book with the intrigue and passion of a romance novel, Washed in the Blood follows the descendants of Diego Martin, a sixteenth-century hog drover abandoned by a Spanish expeditionary party. As centuries pass––and Spanish, English, Portuguese, African, and Native American blood becomes increasingly intermingled––successive generations of Martins struggle with notions of identity and the fickle nature of love.

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The Art of Censorship

Author Steven J. Tepper links controversy about art to social uncertainty

October 31, 2011 In Not Here, Not Now, Not That!, Vanderbilt sociology professor Steven J. Tepper challenges any bird’s-eye-view analysis of the so-called “culture war.” Rather than focus on national debates, like those preceding the opening of the controversial Sensation exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1999, Tepper concerns himself with hundreds of smaller, local conflagrations––over flags, nativity scenes, statues, banned books, etc.––that occurred across America during the 1990s. By analyzing data collected from these local skirmishes, Tepper discards contentious progressive or traditionalist labels, arguing that it’s more effective to understand––and debate––the nuanced issues that really matter to a community.

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Rehabilitating Honor

Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah sees honor as the key to moral progress

September 20, 2011 For many twenty-first-century Americans, the notion of honor rings hollow. The very word “honor” conjures up images of the joust or a gentle slap with a soft leather glove: haughty behaviors perhaps best left to history books. According to philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, however, honor is the very thing we need more of. In The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, Appiah maintains that, rather than being obsolete, honor can be a fundamental, powerful engine for social change. Appiah will discuss his work at Rhodes College in Memphis on September 21 at 7:30 p.m.

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