Extremely well-researched and fluidly written, Harrington’s work will serve as a meaningful resource for students of...

DANGEROUS MYSTIC

MEISTER ECKHART'S PATH TO THE GOD WITHIN

Insightful biography of German theologian Meister Eckhart (1260-1328).

Harrington (History/Vanderbilt Univ.; The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, 2013, etc.) makes a worthy effort in building this biography around a man whose life is scantily documented. Eckhart left little behind aside from sermons and theological writings, despite being one of the most learned individuals of his day. The author follows what is known of his career and uses other sources to re-create the situations and circumstances that Eckhart most likely experienced in his youth and early adulthood before moving on to his somewhat more documented later years as a public preacher and ecclesiastical administrator. A Dominican monk, Eckhart attained the rare title of “Master,” or “Meister,” of theology through years of study mixed with periods of leadership in his monastic order. In middle age, he began a monumental theological undertaking only to eventually cast it aside in favor of reaching the common populace (including women) with his insights on communion with God. Eckhart’s ideas—which entailed negative theology (i.e., understanding God’s nature by describing what he is not); “letting-go-ness” (gelâzenheit), a mystical technique leading to spiritual rebirth; and direct access to the divine by even the most ordinary layperson—met with mixed reactions. Some were enthralled by his teachings, some did not understand him, and others felt he was flirting with heresy. He died in Avignon amid a papal trial over the content of his works, after which his ideas and very name were largely buried for centuries, only to be rediscovered in full force in modernity. Not only does the author craft an excellent biographical work based on outside sources, he also does an admirable job of presenting Eckhart dispassionately, as a historical figure, a theological innovator, and an impetus for modern thinkers.

Extremely well-researched and fluidly written, Harrington’s work will serve as a meaningful resource for students of mysticism and of late Medieval Christianity.

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-98156-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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