Paradigms of Freedom

$230.00

Robert Ignatius Letellier
Lecturer, Madingley Hall, Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Series: World Philosophy
BISAC: PHI007000
DOI: 10.52305/DJEM9263

The integrity of the human being made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26) has been a challenge confronting not just the theologian, but great rulers, politicians, reformers, scientists, poets, artists, composers and novelists over centuries. The Orthodox Tradition might note that our human condition in time and space is shaped and challenged by this journey from likeness to image. Biblically we journey to see the face of God. Less theologically, the human condition is shaped by the tensions and contradictions as we journey to seek ‘freedom’.

Paradigms of Freedom explores, in the context of the unfolding of modern history, how this challenge has been compounded and enriched by the people and institutions who have sought to find and promote the concept of freedom (and issues of personal liberty) in the face of contrary or oppressive circumstances and systems. Importantly, it will examine the contribution of the artist to various models of freedom, some of which may be identified as vectors of transcendence; when image becomes likeness.

The nature of human society, the sense of social harmony and paternalistic control that characterized society for centuries, and especially the emergence of Western culture, began to crumble in the fourteenth century with the cataclysmic onslaught of the Black Death; the challenge to the monolithic power of the Church and the nature of feudalism; the growth of new philosophical and political theories; and overall crumbling of authority. In the fifteenth century new developments like the invention of printing; the standardization of modern languages; and the global expansion of exploration, mercantilism and colonization presented unprecedented horizons of growth and challenges to the place and meaning of humanity in the world. These challenges are embodied in the Renaissance and Reformation, where the very foundations of belief and knowledge were questioned in new processes of discovery in both the world and the cosmos. The nature of freedom to search, to question and to discover new things brought about political and intellectual developments in an ever-expanding series of movements and interrogations. Moved by the annals of the times, individuals have sought to understand and perpetuate the heroic struggles through their own creative power. This in turn can draw us to share in those lost or sorrowful times, and reflect on the sacrifice and vision of those who have been prepared to witness fearlessly to the indomitable spirit of mankind, and his slow but inexorable movement or journey into the light.

This exposition will examine various types/paradigms that have proposed and embodied concepts of freedom. These have tried, and often succeeded, in serving as vectors of transcendence, meditating on and mediating human aspiration. Such reflective movements of mind and heart are embodied both contemporaneously and retrospectively in various historical movements, political gestures and artistic creativity that have provoked thoughts on human liberty: political actions, decrees, philosophy, books, pictorial art, novels, poetry, theatre, opera and film. Representatives and examples (in words and imagery) of all these modes are exemplified in the chapters that explore certain iconic movements and personalities in some of the key historical and social events of the past six centuries. The process is of necessity selective.

Religious conflict, freedom of thought and denomination, the wars fought over faith and control of the land, the desire for liberty of choice, challenging new discoveries in science and geography, cosmology, colonialism and slavery, Enlightenment, revolution and the search for national identity and independence—these are all areas that have absorbed human thought, knowledge and aspiration, and resulted in inevitable artistic reflection. This is not a history but a consideration of mankind’s search to be free, and how this striving is embodied in the poetry of liberation.
(Imprint: Nova)

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1. The Age of Reformation and Jacob’s Ladder (The Sixteenth Century)

Chapter 2. Religion and the Age of Science (The Seventeenth Century)

Chapter 3. Justice and Freedom in the Age of Enlightenment (The Eighteenth Century)

Chapter 4. Romanticism and Aspiration (The Nineteenth Century)

Chapter 5. A Time of Conflict and Murder (The Twentieth Century)

Conclusion

Notes

Index


Reviews

“This is an exciting book. It makes the reader think. The author takes the reader through the modern history of Europe from early modern times to the 20th century in just five chapters. Conventionally, he commences the early modern period with the 16th century and the Age of Reformation. Each subsequent chapter takes the reader through time, century by century: Religion and the Age of Science (17th century); Justice and the Age of Enlightenment (18th century); Romanticism and Aspiration (19th century); Conflict, depression and sorrow (20th century). Chronologically there is an overlap in time with long and short centuries, but few would disagree with the author’s broad summary of each century. It is difficult to place the book within any particular genre. In his preface the author admits: ‘This not a history but a consideration of mankind’s search to be free, and how this striving is embodied in the poetry of liberation.’ This aphorism is not confined to poets. Perhaps that is why Nova has published the work in its World Philosophy series. Yet this is not a conventional philosophy book which at a scholarly level would separately consider each philosopher and ignore art. This is an insightful book worthy of reading and reflection…READ MORE-Ian Rogers, Historian and Theologian, University of London

“Letellier, in the Introduction to his major work “Paradigms of Freedom”, quotes Rousseau, ‘Man was born free, yet everywhere is in chains’. This recognition of human suffering, in all its various forms, is heightened by Christianity, the faith of Europe, which dignified mankind as being born in the image of God and on a lifetime journey to God. This dissonance seared European thought and society, and Letellier, in this monumental work, explores through European artists, philosophers, theologians and politicians, what he describes as the age of renaissance, reformation, revolution and romanticism. The Introduction ends with transcendent images of hope. From Jacob’s Ladder God comes to man to gift peace and unity, in contrast to the futility of a man-made utopia, while from ancient Greece, Pegasus points man to the transcendent vectors of wisdom, fame and poetry. In what is a monumental work, of 400 pages, Letellier produces a history of Europe that integrates historical events in the context of the arts (literature, paintings, poetry, theatre and opera), philosophy, political and religious movements, but crucially Letellier embeds it in the people involved. As the contents page indicates the scope of the work is immense and makes a concise summary almost impossible. However, his authoritative references to Sir Walter Scott, illustrate his comprehensive knowledge because he combines the covenanting history of Presbyterian Scotland, with Scott’s literary and poetic output, but then writes of the major impact Scott had on the world of opera. This is a thoroughly researched, referenced and illustrated work which is an invaluable cornucopia to academics and students, and those seeking knowledge of the arts, philosophy and history. It will be a welcome addition to any library.”
-Robert Gibson, Department of Civil Engineering, The University of the West of Scotland

This book provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to European thought—politics, literature, art, opera—as they relate to the concept of freedom. Letellier frames his work around the exposition of Friedrich Schiller and Sir Walter Scott, pivotal players who bridge the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and their exploration of freedom as manifest in their art. Letellier hits his stride in chapter four, beginning with Walter Scott’s poetry and novels, confronting the tensions of nationalism and personal freedom, “a romantic allegiance to a dangerous but attractive past and the more prosaic but rational present.” Virtually all artistic endeavour, somewhere along the line, takes a turn towards tragedy, that reflects the sorrow of the human condition. From the Greek mythos to Enlightenment philosophy, from 20th century absurdism and existentialism, to pessimism at hopelessness of man’s yearning for freedom in the ‘conflict, sorrow and depression’ of the 20th century. In summary, what is freedom but the power to think and to act as an individual? To embark on that most human journey: the quest for personal distinctiveness…READ MORE-John Hartley, Theologian and Travel Writer, Maryvale Institute, Birmingham

“This fascinating selection of essays is published under Nova’s World Philosophy series. Those who know Robert Letellier’s’ huge scope of interest, and his ability to write elegant biographies, scholarly musical treatises from compilations of biblical associations through to a magnificent source book on operetta, and historical enquires, especially with Romantic themes embracing literature, music and the fine arts, will welcome this edition of his personal evaluation of the concept of freedom. The book is no conventional time travel, but an “investigation of the major gestures of freedom” and “certain decisive events” from the 16th through to the 20th century. The works of Friedrich Schiller and Sir Walter Scott feature prominently, but within the first few pages we meet the likes of St Francis, Luther, Bach, Hans Sachs and the legendary Johann Georg Faust. Shortly after several artists appear (Cranach, Dürer, Bosch and Brueghel to name a few), and thinkers such as Voltaire who laid the foundations of contests between state and church and kindled growing conflicts between the latter and the emergent empiricism of science. Letellier’s way of amalgamating times and places is seen for example in the chapter on ‘Religion and the Age of Science’. Galileo and Kepler are imbricated with the works of the composer Paul Hindemith and the playwright Berthold Brecht, with real treats such as Johann Strauss and Grimmelshausen [Grimmel who?]: he wrote one of the most significant novels the 30 years’ war Abenteuerlicher Simplicius Simplicissimus).If you want a synopsis of the political and religious history of the events leading to the English Civil war and its aftermath, or the shaded lights of women at the time, read about Margaret Cavendish Duchess of Newcastle, and Marie-Madeleine Comtesse de Lafayette. The two chapters Justice and the Age of Enlightenment (The 18th Century), and Romanticism and Aspiration (The 19th century) (the era of revolutions) are stunning accounts of those exciting times of conflict between ideals as personalities, places and politics refine every page forming the emerging bulwark of what Letellier refers to, in his last chapter, as The 20th Century: Conflict, Depression and Sorrow. Discussions about freedom so often get closed down to a few moments and places (French Revolution), a few names (music: Beethoven, Literature Byron). But the worldwide and enduring thrust for Romanticism and the longing for freedom from oppression has been global and enduring. Those who today have similar aspirations can always learn from the past, and will savour the deep insights of Letellier’s elegant and thought-provoking narrative. Nova have produced a fine book: a lively cover embraces a text which is well set out and easy to read, embellished with many relevant illustrations which is nice to hold and have nearby. ‘This is not a history but a consideration of mankind’s search to be free…’.” -Professor Michael Trimble, Emeritus Professor in Behavioural Neurology, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, Faculty of Brain Sciences

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