There is no pleasure quite like receiving a pristine copy of a new book through one’s door; and it is doubled when the book includes some of one’s own work. So I was delighted to find a couple of weeks ago my copy of this new collection, edited by Andrew Chandler, which includes my own article on the making of John Masefield’s play The Coming of Christ, for Canterbury Cathedral in 1928. It is not every day that one’s work appears between the same covers as that of the archbishop of Canterbury; something to tell the grandchildren perhaps.
As it happens, the artistic element of Bell’s work is a relatively minor feature of this volume. There is much here as well for scholars of the ecumenical movement in the twentieth century. Charlotte Methuen writes on Bell’s early ecumenical work to 1929; Jaakko Rusama on his efforts in promoting Anglican-Lutheran relations; and Gerhard Besier on the friendship with Willem Visser t’Hooft and on the World Council of Churches.
There is also much here for scholars interested in the politics of the period and the Anglican church’s reactions to and interventions in them. Charmian Brinson writes on internment in 1940; Tom Lawson provides a ‘moral history’ of the trial of German war criminals; Dianne Kirby reflects on Bell and the Cold War; and Andrew Chandler on Bell and the politics of resistance in Nazi Germany. Philip Coupland also provides a chapter on Bell and the cause of European unity.
It is published by Ashgate in a handsome hardback; and is available to order online. My paper, as first published in Humanitas in 2009, is available online.
I’ve just finished correcting the proofs of my article on the archbishops of Canterbury and the censorship of the theatre between 1909 and 1949, which is destined to appear in Studies in Church History vol. 48 this summer. It can be pre-ordered on the Boydell and Brewer site, which has a list of the contents. Re-reading it after 18 months, I’m still pleased with it, although the re-reading has suggested some new questions to pursue, about which I’ll blog another time. There’s a brief summary of the article here.
It isn’t always that themed volumes such as these that the Ecclesiastical History Society produce are so squarely in one of my areas of interest, but this one certainly is. It can be read as a companion to SCH 28 (1992), which was on ‘The Church and the Arts’ and contains several articles which remain the most recent word on their subjects. I was at the St Andrews conference that spawned the forthcoming volume, and as one of the session chairs was involved in the EHS’s normal peer review process, and am looking forward to reading the final versions of several of the papers I heard. Judith Maltby writes on Rose Macaulay, Stuart Mews on the Lady Chatterley trial, and Crawford Gribben on rapture fiction. There are also several pieces on twentieth century representations of the medieval past, by Sarah Foot and Stella Fletcher amongst others.
[Update: see a summary of the published article]
I note with interest a series of contemporary interpretations of the themes of the medieval miracle plays, all this week on Radio 3. Last night it was on the Creation; still to come, the Flood, the Exodus, David and Goliath and Samson and Delilah.
In 2008 I gave a lecture to the Anglo-Catholic History Society on this topic. Having not published it elsewhere in the meantime, it is now available in SAS-Space. It ventures a parallel interpretation of the trajectories of church engagement with music, religious drama and the visual arts; and of the place of the arts in understandings of the relationship between Christianity and British culture. Read it in SAS-Space.
An intriguing flurry of related items in the Guardian last month. Firstly, Michael Billington drew a contrast between the animating force of religious themes in much drama in the Fifties and the lack of religious interest in plays written in more recent years. This was in part a response to Drew Pautz’s play Love the Sinner (reviewed, again by Billington, here).
This elicited a response from Ian Bradley, pointing out that religious themes were alive and well in the musical.
Finally, some enterprising soul in the Guardian’s research department pulled out a most intriguing archive item from 22 May 1958, on a debate in the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly over the future of the Gateway Theatre, which, improbably, was actually owned by the Church.