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G K Chesterton (1874–1936), a prolific
and provocative journalist-philosopher, felt that the world was almost always in permanent danger of being misjudged
or even overlooked, and so the pursuit
of understanding, insight and awareness became his perpetual preoccupation ... His belief was that it really is possible, albeit in a limited way, to see things as they are.1
Dr Duncan Reyburn in the Department of Visual
Arts is a leading authority in South Africa and internationally on the work of G K Chesterton. Reyburn’s book, Seeing things as they are: G K Chesterton and the Drama of Meaning (Cascade, USA) pinpoints and addresses what has been a major gap in Chesterton scholarship to date. Although
the unique interpretive stance of Chesterton is certainly the central impetus behind all Chesterton scholarship, this is the first book to focus specifically and comprehensively on this issue. In the search
for meaning, the book aims to elucidate how Chesterton’s work might better help us to understand and to participate in the hermeneutic experience – how we might better understand not only words but the world itself.
The book situates Chesterton within the history
of philosophy and theology in a way that has not previously been done. Chesterton, as a master of paradox and as a profoundly analogical (rather
than dialectical) thinker, is given his due for his
many nuanced provocations, and for the way that
he invites the reader to enter into the event of understanding. The book argues that Chesterton’s unique hermeneutic is rooted in a Platonist-Thomist conception of being. One of the world’s leading Chesterton scholars, Joseph Pearce, said of Reyburn’s book that it is ‘utterly unique’ in the history of Chesterton scholarship.
It is not only a unique contribution, but is also the most comprehensive assessment of the relationship between theology and philosophy in Chesterton’s work to date. This fact is noted by another leading
Chesterton scholar, Prof Alison Milbank of Nottingham University UK, when she writes the following about the book: “For far too long Chesterton has been undervalued as a philosopher, and the radicalism
of his thought unacknowledged. Duncan Reyburn’s superb exploration of the dramatic nature of his hermeneutics is thus a timely and original contribution to Chesterton studies, revealing on what resilient theological basis the sparkling epigrams depend.”
In addition to this book, Reyburn is co-authoring one and co-editing another book (also under contract with Cascade, USA) with American scholar Dr Roberto Sirvent (Hope International University, California).
He has also begun work on a second book on Chesterton.
Before shifting focus to academia, Reyburn worked as an animator, comics artist, designer, design consultant, illustrator and television commercial director. In his research, his particular interest is in the intersection between hermeneutical philosophy, political theology, mimetic theory and visual culture.
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