Arthur, Chris 1955-(C. J. Arthur)
ARTHUR, Chris 1955-(C. J. Arthur)
PERSONAL: Born 1955, in Ireland. Education: University of Edinburgh, M.A., Ph.D., Dip.Ed.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Department of Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter, Ceredigion SA48 7ED, Wales. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Essayist, poet, and educator. Worked as a warden on a nature reserve in Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, TV researcher, and schoolteacher; Department of Theology, Religious Studies & Islamic Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter, senior lecturer in religious studies.
AWARDS, HONORS: Gifford fellow, University of St. Andrews; Akegarasu Haya International Essay Prize; Beverly Hayne Memorial Award for Young Writers.
(As C. J. Arthur) In the Hall of Mirrors: SomeProblems of Commitment in a Religiously Plural World, Mowbray (London, England), 1986.
Biting the Bullet—Some Personal Reflections onReligious Education, Saint Andrew Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1990.
(Editor) Religion and the Media: An IntroductoryReader, University of Wales Press (Cardiff, Wales), 1993.
Globalization of Communications: Some ReligiousImplications, WCC Publications (Geneva, Switzerland), 1998.
Irish Nocturnes, Davies Group (Aurora, CO), 1999.
Irish Willow, Davies Group (Aurora, CO), 2000.
Religious Pluralism: A Metaphorical Approach, Davies Group (Aurora, CO), 2000.
Contributor of essays to numerous books, including Rethinking Media, Religion, and Culture, Sage (London, England), 1997; The Coming Deliverer, University of Wales Press, 1997; and Godly Things: Museums, Objects, and Religion, Leicester University Press (London, England), 2000. Writings have also appeared in many literary publications, including American Scholar, Antigonish Review, Centennial Review, Contemporary Review, Dalhousie Review, Descant, Event, Honest Ulsterman, North American Review, Northwest Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Southern Review, Threepenny Review, and Wascana Review.
SIDELIGHTS: As an academician who teaches religious studies, Chris Arthur has written and edited several books about religion, as well as numerous articles and essays. Many of these appeared in his 1990 collection of articles titled Biting the Bullet—Some Personal Reflections on Religious Education. More recently, Arthur has reached a much wider audience and critical acclaim with his two books of personal essays titled Irish Nocturnes and Irish Willow.
Irish Nocturnes, the first of the two volumes to be published, contains eighteen essays. The essays include reflections on his childhood and the beauty of nature, ruminations on the history of linen and its symbolic and metaphorical meanings, thoughts about the word "ferrule," and a description of a frightening midnight walk through a tunnel to an old graveyard. Understandably, many of the essays also touch on religious issues, such as "The Empty Heart." In this essay, Arthur discusses current society's predilection for believing that there is nothing more to life than meets the eye and how religions provide important symbols to help people see the world as a place of mystery and awe.
"I borrow the term nocturnes from the Irish composer John Field to describe a particular type of essay—one written in a pensive, mediative, introspective key," Arthur told Charlotte Austin for an interview on the Charlotte Austin Review Web site. "You might also describe the book as creative non-fiction or literary non-fiction."
Irish Nocturnes has received wide critical acclaim. Thomas E. Kennedy, writing in the Literary Review, described the the book as "sheer pleasure, a swim through the waters of consciousness of a man clearly fluent and knowledgeable in the essay form, full of information and opinion, fact and personal observation, a book that rewards in many ways, virtually in every sentence." Kennedy also recommended, "Place it on your bed table, take it up at night before you sleep, and read one essay at a time—days, weeks, even months apart—before you shut the light." William Wall, writing a review for the Local Ireland Web site, called the collection of essays "an almost overwhelming gift, each a jewel in itself." In the Boston Irish Reporter, Thomas O'Grady wrote that the essays "create the impression of impromptu late-night reveries even as they register poignant and, at times, profound perceptions about the human condition."
Arthur's original intent was to publish one large volume of collected essays. But his publisher decided that two smaller volumes was a better approach.
Arthur's second volume of essays, Irish Willow, also received stellar reviews. "Arthur's philosophical musings are couched in poetic language and nature images that make for a compelling read," wrote Denise J. Stankovics in Library Journal. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Susan Salter Reynolds noted that the "Irish Willow is a collection of essays on patterns and meaning and reasons for doing things and different ways of living." She also commented that Arthur's essays meet the test of a good essay in that "there is the feeling of wandering and meeting a conclusion, a lack of effort because meaning is everywhere, if we only tune ourselves perfectly." As an example, in his essay "Willow Pattern," Arthur comes to see his childhood collection of china pieces as part of greater pattern. Writing for Emigrant Online, reviewer Pauline Ferrie noted, "These fragments come to represent the different pieces of our lives and the lives of all those who have preceded our existence, as well as the fundamental fragmentation of the author's native Antrim."
"All I know is that I've been moved to express myself in writing for almost as long as I can remember," Arthur told Austin. "I've always been entranced by the beauty and intricacies of language, and still find it amazing what it can be used to convey."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Boston Irish Reporter, August, 2000, Thomas O'Grady, "A little Night Music, Please."
Contemporary Review, May, 2000, review of IrishNocturnes, p. 277.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Michael W. Ellis, review of Religious Pluralism: A Metaphorical Approach, p. 119; spring, 2001, Thomas E. Kennedy, review of Irish Willow, p. 80.
Literary Review, spring, 2001, Thomas E. Kennedy, review of Irish Nocturnes, p. 602.
Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2002, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of Irish Willow, p. R-15.
Scottish Journal of Theology, June, 1993, Adrian Thatcher, review of Biting the Bullet—Some Personal Reflections on Religious Education, pp. 249-251; summer, 1996, Alan Main, review of Religion and the Media, p. 389.
Charlotte Austin Review Web site,http://collection.nlcbnc.ca/100/202/300/charlotte/ (September 4, 2002), interview with Chris Arthur.
Emigrant Online,http://www.bookviewireland.ie (September 4, 2002), Pauline Ferrie, review of Irish Willow.
Local Ireland Web site,http://www.local.ie (May 29, 2002), William Wall, review of Irish Nocturnes.*