Married Professors in Religion and Philosophy Department Author New Book on Insurrection
This spring, Dr. Jeff Robbins and Dr. Noëlle Vahanian, professors in Lebanon Valley College’s Religion and Philosophy Department—and husband and wife—co-wrote An Insurrectionist Manifesto: Four New Gospels for a Radical Politics. Published by Columbia University Press, the book contains four “gospels” from philosopher Martin Heidegger’s model of insurrectionism: a revolt or resistance against an authority. His model is a fourfold of “earth and sky, gods and mortals.”
“In broad terms, the book is about the good news of radical theology,” said Dr. Robbins. “It has typically been presented and read as a form of negative theology, or as primarily an expression of deconstructive critique. We wanted to show in this book that this deeply critical sensibility also contains within it a life-affirming message.”
This radical or “Death of God” theology originated in the 1960s, proposing a post-Christian and post-modern nation as secularism and a disbelief in traditional theism rose. This method of thought grew so widespread in academic circles, TIME magazine published a now-famous issue with a cover asking “Is God Dead?” in 1966. While often viewed as something negative, An Insurrectionist Manifesto sheds more light on the topic and presents the theology as something to be understood and not necessarily feared.
“My work tries to read the cards of fatalism,” said Dr. Vahanian. “It tries to argue that doom and change are not exclusive categories, that nature and culture are interrelated, that thinking this interrelation at the ethical, philosophical, and theological level makes a difference. Finally, that the goal is not to transcend finitude, but to live this one life once and for all.”
The book was also co-authored with Dr. Ward Blanton at the University of Kent in England, and Dr. Clayton Crockett at the University of Central Arkansas. Long-time friends and collaborators on previous projects, this new work was a familiar but powerful kind of process as each contributed their own expertise to four different pieces within the book to create a common narrative.
“When friends write together they’re doing something besides finishing each other’s thoughts,” noted Dr. Vahanian. “Writing a book together may also be another way of hearing oneself think in another voice. These ideas ‘you’ put on paper are not ‘mine,’ or I would not have said it like so, and yet, in solidarity, they are and I did.”
Dr. Robbins agreed with the kind of partnership that comes with co-authoring a new work. “The only additional thing I’d like to add is the particular joy I had in writing it together with my wife and colleague, Noëlle. We had dreamed of writing a book together for many years. But with the busyness of our jobs and family life, it is hard to find the time and the quiet to stop and think together. This project gave us that opportunity.”
“Working on a book together is the promise of a conversation—it is a being together that cannot be taken away,” said Dr. Vahanian.