Welcome to Good Letters: The Image Blog
By Gregory Wolfe
Welcome to the newest feature of the completely re-vamped Image website: our blog, Good Letters.
More than a dozen gifted writers—representing a variety of different voices, viewpoints, and areas of expertise—will be posting reflections here every day on the relationship between art and faith.
So, let’s get right to the inevitable, obligatory question: why do this?
Image is both a leading literary quarterly and a multi-faceted, nonprofit arts organization. In print, on the web, and at our events we are constantly building community—a community of those who care about the ways that faith and imagination can deepen one another, and renew our culture.
Drawing upon this vibrant community to create a daily blog is a natural step. Even the most die-hard fans of print media (and you can number us among the charter members of that club) know that many of us now use the web for a portion of our cultural and literary enrichment. To be sure, we always live in hope that you are, or will become, a subscriber to Image journal, but we can now offer you a regular reminder of the literary, spiritual, and aesthetic richness that can be found in the pages of that handsome, sacramental publication.
Which brings us to the second question: what's to keep this blog from repeating what's been done on other sites, or becoming yet another online opportunity for pointless pontification?
We are confident that what you will find here on a consistent basis cannot be easily found elsewhere. The contributors to Good Letters are not only gifted writers but they will also be producing meditations rather than polemics. Just as Image is grounded in the language of art—of drama and lyric and narrative—so this blog will be marked by reflective prose rather than political pronouncements. The writers will not only comment on new books, visual art, music, and so forth, but many of them will also write from their own experience as art-makers.
There is also a broader cultural consideration behind Image and Good Letters.
At a time when many people treat religious faith as inherently irrational, if not fanatical, thinkers like Pope Benedict XVI have spoken of the deep and enduring relationship between faith and reason.
While we believe strongly in the importance of that discussion, we hope to provide a somewhat different perspective—stemming from an interest in the ancient bond between faith and imagination. Contrary to myths embraced by many believers and secularists alike, we believe that this bond remains strong, and is getting stronger. Image bears witness to the vitality of this tradition.
So, too, does the name Good Letters.
In the Renaissance, a group of scholars, writers, artists, and statesmen known as humanists became convinced that politics, faith, and culture—and the quality of civic life itself—would be immeasurably enriched by the study of classical literature. They referred to this literary legacy as bonae litterae, “good letters.”
In short, the Renaissance humanists believed that “good letters” helped us to better understand the human condition—through the imagination’s capacity to render life dramatically and holistically. This engagement with classic works of art, they held, would counter the tendency of politics and theology to become abstract and ideological.
That’s a worthy mission in any era, but seems especially so in our own. It is the mission of Image and now this blog.
One last thing: the Renaissance humanists loved the rhetorical form of the dialogue, precisely because it allowed a variety of voices and viewpoints to be heard, rather than monolithic pronouncements. Thanks to the Comment feature on this blog, you can respond to the posts on Good Letters and make that sort of dialogue a reality.
We can’t wait for you to make that happen.