Professor David Jasper
- Professor of Literature and Theology (Theology and Religious Studies)
In a recent book, The Sacred Desert (published by Blackwells in 2004), my research has ranged from some of the earliest of Christian theologians - the Fathers of the desert such as St. Anthony - to writers on the 'deserts' of the modern world, both geographical and interior. During the writing of this book I have spent time living as a solitary in the deserts of South Western United States of America, as well as a semester as Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Iowa. I have worked with art historians and artists including the prominent video artist Bill Viola, whose installations capture both the fertility of the desert for the human spirit, and the desolations of the desert of the modern cityscape. My work now continues this project, exploring the aesthetics of asceticism in the Christian tradition and in art and literature.
One colleague has described my work as a search for a post postmodern theology. I am concerned to ask where we might begin to find and articulate a theology as the Christian churches and their traditions in the West at least fall into decay. The canvas of my thought is therefore broad and eclectic, from medieval mystics like Meister Eckhart to contemporary radical theologians like Thomas J J Altizer. I have learnt much from the great 'desert' texts of the twentieth century in various disciplines - from Karl Barth's Römerbrief and Heidegger's Sein und Zeit to T S Eliot's Wasteland and Arnold Schoenberg's unfinished opera Moses und Aron. My work is therefore deeply interdisciplinary though at the same time thoroughly theological, asking questions in the spaces and interstices between disciplines and ideas. The aim is to write a new kind of (un) systematic theology. Most recently I have been collaborating with colleagues in China as well as Europe and North America to ensure a universal context for this project.
My last book was entitled The Sacred Body (Baylor UOP, 2009) and follows on the from the Sacred Desert as a meditiation on the ascetic tradition and the 'interior desert' in literature, art and theology. It will be followed by the third book in the trilogy, The Sacred Community, due in 2012.
All my work has grown out of the interplay between my two first degrees - one in English literature and the other in theology. This has brought me to my present research which is an interdisciplinary attempt to examine the possibilities for theology (mainly but not exclusively Christian) in a contemporary culture.
Areas for prospective postgraduate research might include:
- Theology and modern European literature
- Religious aesthetics
- Language and liturgy
- Belief and the critical spirit
- Theology and the visual arts
- Theology and culture
- History of doctrine, hermeneutics
- Literature and theology