What is the “good life” to you? Is it the American Dream? Is it the kids getting a good education and job? What about the family? Is it the wife staying home while the husband goes to work? Taking a vacation someplace exotic on spring break? Where did we get these ideas on the good life from? Are they biblical? Karen Swallow Prior has some pretty good ideas!
Travis and Karen discuss her forthcoming book, The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images, and Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis (Brazos 2023). They discuss how we developed this idea of what the good life is and what it is supposed to be and how some have ordered their lives to get it. They also discuss Flannery O’Connor, eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature, modern evangelicalism, her departure from the Southern Baptist Convention, and her desire for the church in North America going forward.
Karen Swallow Prior, Ph. D., is a reader, writer, and professor. In addition to her newest book, she is the author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos 2018); Jane Eyre: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting (B&H 2021), The Scarlet Letter: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting (Read and Reflect with the Classics) (B&H 2022), Frankenstein: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting (B&H 2021), Sense and Sensibility: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting (B&H 2020), Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting (B&H 2022), Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014); and Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012).
She is co-editor of Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues (Zondervan 2019) and has contributed to numerous other books. She has a monthly column for Religion News Service. Her writing has appeared at Christianity Today, New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, First Things, Vox, Think Christian, The Gospel Coalition, and various other places. She hosted the podcast Jane and Jesus.
Karen gives frequent lectures and talks on her work. Among the places she has spoken are Wheaton College, University of Minnesota, Indiana Wesleyan University, Northwestern University, Grace College, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, The Gospel Coalition Conference, Redeemer University College, Toronto Baptist Seminary, United Theological Seminary, Festival of Faith and Writing, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Women’s Conference, Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, The Row House Forum, Q Boston, the Glen Workshop, and the Humane Society of the United States.
She completed her Ph.D. at the State University of New York at Buffalo and her undergraduate studies at Daemen College in Amherst, New York. Her academic focus is British literature, with a specialty in the eighteenth century, a period she loves for its emphasis on philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, and community, as well as its efforts at correcting the universal human impulse to gravitate toward extremes. Her scholarly work has appeared in 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era; The Shandean; The Scriblerian and various literary encyclopedias.
She is a contributing editor for Comment (an online magazine we love), a founding member of The Pelican Project, a Senior Fellow at the Trinity Forum, a Senior Fellow at the International Alliance for Christian Education, a former Senior Fellow at the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and is a former member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States. She and her husband live on a 100-year old homestead in central Virginia with dogs, chickens, and lots of books.
Check out our other conversations on the imagination and how evangelicalism has developed and how it has shaped our imagination and how we live.
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