Recent books in brief

Recent books in brief
Navigating the Gospels: Mark

By Philip Fogarty SJ (Columba Press, €12.55 / £10.46)

This volume concludes Fr Fogarty’s set of guides to the Gospels. Intended for the general reader rather than the student, they aim through the use of the New Revised Standard Versions texts and the work of present day scholars and theologians, to open up the books in a connected way.

They are intended only as a ground work. Those who read the series are encouraged to open their minds and imaginations to the texts. This use of the imagination goes back of course to St Ignatius, and to ”the composition of place” talked about in his Spiritual Exercises, which is so central to the Jesuit method of mediation.

Philip Fogarty takes the reader step by step through the events of the gospel and their significance, but in final chapter he address the difficult question of ”inspiration” and authority, a short chapter which provides a basic understanding of often moot matters.


Praying with St Mark

By Albert McNally (Columba Press, €14.55 / £12.13 )

This book, in contrast with Philip Fogarty’s above, is intended for a more advance level of Gospel study, either privately at home or in a reading group. Arranged in 20 sessions it goes through the text, not only to deal with the content, but to inspire the utilisation of them not only for mediation but also for prayer. But all through the reader, or rather user, is guided by Fr McNally. Both of these books aim essentially at deepening not only an understanding of the Gospel, but also an interiorisation of their substance and meaning. Certainly readers of Fr McNally’s more complex book, however, would certainly benefit from the enlarged insights of group discussion.


Social Thought on Ireland in the Nineteenth Century

Edited by Séamus Ó Siocháin (UCD Press, €28.00 / £23.35)

Though the cover of this book is decorated with one of Sir John Tenniels’s superb, if racist images of an armed Britannia protecting a weaker Hibernia from a stone throwing ape-faced thug labelled ”Anarchy”, this book digs much deep that the prejudices of press and politicians in the Victorian era, to investigate what it was that some of the leading social thinkers of the time thought about Ireland in the light of their newly created science.

Is collects together nine conference papers, some of which deal with familiar topics, other which open new ground. So we have essays on Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville, but we also have Harriet Martineau, the redoubtable associate of Charles Dickens on the Daily News, James Anthony Froude dissected by Ciaran Brady, and Sir Henry Maine and the development of ”Darwinian” social theory.

There is also an epitome of the treatment of Ireland, from a distance, by Marx and Engels. The book ends with papers on Celticism as it developed through Arnold from the Macpherson; and race theory and the Irish.

These days race is treated with disapprobation. But the theorists of Irish nationalism were in themselves keen racialists, developing their own notions of a Gaelic ubermensch. Though this is an academic book, the essays will be found of great interest to students of Irish sociology, history and literature.