Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Selling my wares at the Grand Theatre in Tracy. Alas, it was kind of a slow day for all of us…

[update–I’ve added three new images to my Redbubble store–listed at the end of this post]  Hey folks, sorry this is coming so late (November was a crazy month, both for macro and micro reasons…). If you are still looking for gifts and think something Viking/Valkyrie/Tomte-themed would be just the thing, then look no further! Everything from art prints to posters to greeting cards to throw pillows to phone covers can be bought from my Redbubble print-on-demand store! If you order from Redbubble, use the code joy-vikingsbooksetc for 20% off (good until midnight tonight–the 12th–but I believe there are other sales going on this month).

Or you can also check out my DeviantArt gallery, which has a few selections not on my Redbubble page (though not everything on DA is available to buy, alas–and be warned that ordering from DA involves becoming a member and paying through their points system). To be honest, it might be too late to have anything shipped in time through DA, but you can check out the shipping options if you want. For Redbubble, if you want something by Christmas, I would choose their fastest delivery option (overnight, I think?), whatever initial delivery estimate they give, because you have to add manufacturing time to delivery time, and when I ordered a bunch of stock to table at an arts and crafts show the other week I had two products arrive days after I needed them. :/

And a last note before I give you a sampling of products below, I am planning on setting up an etsy shop to sell traditional media originals and some of the linocut prints I’ve started doing, but I’m afraid that’s going to have to wait a bit longer. 😦


Still the best of my clothing illustrations I think… And still hoping to continue this line with more Valkyrie illustrations.

On to my Redbubble store. No new pictures, I’m afraid (though I may try to convert some of my penbrush sketches later today), but lots of new products. Art prints, photographic prints, greeting cards, clothing (you’ll have to see all the options on the website) and stickers are the main thing here, and I believe will be manufactured and delivered the fastest. Other stuff that I think looks pretty cool: throw pillows (you know you want a Valkyrie throw pillow), journals (both hardcover and spiral–I’ve seen the latter, and I think the Valkyria: Mist one looks great), mugs (though greater variety there on my DeviantArt shop), cases/skins for phones, tablets, laptops (not all brands tho…), bags/pouches of various sorts (I ordered tote bags, but haven’t had a chance to see them yet), and other stuff which I haven’t had much time to think over (not all images work very well on all products…) but which you are welcome to check out (in fact, please do think over whether a product looks good to you–it could be one or two products were created automatically before I had a chance to decide whether they worked or not. Been a while since I’ve caught an example of that though…).

And in conclusion, here are a few of my personal faves (or if not my faves, at least more seasonally appropriate selections…).




mist__valkyrja_by_callego-d6t5yyfAnd note that my Valkyria:Mist picture is (since it was uploaded before Redbubble had updated some things) listed separately for different products: Shirts and sweaters, phone cases (i-phone and galaxy), i-pad cases/skins, and everything else (prints/posters, cards, leggings, skirts, mugs, etc).

If you see something in my store that you think others would be into, please share links! While I appreciate family and friends buying my work, I’d like to move beyond them accounting for about 1/2 of all my sales… 😛

EDIT: New pics up on Redbubble! I’ve been meaning to digitally clean up some of my pen brush sketches, but since that is more time consuming than one would think (it took most of a day to do the Mist picture shown above–that’s not counting the original sketch), I chose two that seemed to work pretty well (though I mostly recommend them as cards/prints–if you want them as one of the other products, please consider the preview of the product first, as there may be some artifacts from image borders, etc). And last but not least, I’m putting up prints of my “Two by Moonlight” on bristol–I’ll eventually be putting the original of that up for sale on etsy, but it will also be available as a print.


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[note: it occurs to me that, as with many stories taken from folklore, this is a bit of a NSFW post–for those not acronym-savvy, that means not so much that it is violent, which it is, but that some of the dismembered body parts involved are (in the normal course of events) used to make babies. So reader beware.]

inktober_10_31_16_the_grisly_box_by_callego-damzua7Happy Halloween! Now that the “Paganism Past” conference this last weekend is over, I’m relaxing today by, among other things, reading some non-Scandi folkloristic type stuff–right now Japanese Tales edited and translated by Royall Turner (who was apparently placed at the University of Oslo at one point, so it just goes to show that everything connects to Scandinavian Studies in the end). Appropriately enough today I hit the “Haunts” section of the book, and thought I would illustrate the short but grim story “The Grisly Box” for my last Inktober 2016 drawing.

Like most of the other texts in this volume, the story is from Heian-era Japan, so if I remember my Japanese history correctly (that one class in undergrad is a long time ago now…) this is prior to the Samurai, and instead the period of poetic aristocrats improvising on cherry blossoms in the court at Kyoto. Well OK, this story really has nothing to do with that. In “The Grisly Box” a bureaucrat who works for a regent is traveling home to see his family and comes across a woman on a bridge who gives him a box, which he is to 1) give to a woman on another bridge, whose name he does not need to know because she will be there, don’t worry, and 2) ABSOLUTELY NOT OPEN. Btw, his servants don’t see anyone and are wondering “What the hell is our master doing?” He takes the box, but forgets to stop at the other bridge so ends up taking the box home with him. His wife say “Well, Mr, that’s a nice box, where did you get that WHAT IS HER NAME” and, of course, because we can already tell we are in a story that is going to either stereotype women’s motives or turn them into absolute monsters, she opens it and inside there are EYEBALLS AND PENISES. (btw, spoiler alert). Then the husband is like “Oh heck, we better get this to the right person now” but when he gives it to the other bridge woman she says “hey you looked didn’t you” but he denies it, and some time later he dies. The end. I know, out of possible Japanese-themed stories I don’t know why they didn’t do this story instead of Kubo and the Two Strings…

Some comparative comments as a folklorist (OK, I am more a Scandinavianist than a Folklorist but whatever):

-Not uncommon in a patriarchal society to find female monsters/supernaturals coded as sexually threatening (male supernaturals can be as well, but they turn up in different sorts of stories), so this is not an especially surprising story to come across. The inclusion of a jealous wife highlights the theme as well, with whatever guilt we might impute to an unfaithful husband displaced onto the castrating, apparently voracious (what else do they need all those pricks for?) spooky women. I don’t have comparable castrating legends in mind at the moment from Scandi folklore (doesn’t mean they aren’t there, but my recall is not great at the moment), but we do find supernatural women coded as sexually threatening in many narratives, as with the Swedish skogsrå. The “point” of these stories (not that they were always intended explicitly as moral lessons) is not always consistent, which serves to remind us that each individual version of a legend comes from an individual, and so can be taken as part of a larger debate regarding, for example, gender norms, the status of the supernatural community, etc–but the threat in many of these stories is framed around the danger of leaving the human community, diminishing the reproductive and other capacities of that community, in favor of the supernaturals, who to some degree (not to say this is somehow the most primal or foundational meaning) stand in for competing communities in general. And of course, it inverts the usual run of things in a patriarchy–the woman becomes powerful, the man weak, perhaps simultaneously expressing patriarchal guilt (“if they treated us like we treat them…”) as well as justifying the status quo (“if we let them have power…”). But let’s also note that, again, there is no need to assume culture is monolithic, and what might seem subversive can nevertheless end up be a fairly prominent part of the cultural production–I’m thinking here of the fact that the Valkyries of Norse mythology in some instances (not all) get a fairly positive treatment while in others they seem tied to quite thoroughly patriarchal cautionary tales. Also, spooky, castrating women can be used in politically subversive ways rather than cautionary/kinky ways, and of course, subversive readings are always possible as well.

-The eyes–well, it is an easy enough Freudian move to take the eye itself as a phallic symbol. Not that we need to take Freudian symbolism and apply it “willy”-nilly (did you see what I did there?)–but if this is a matter of supernatural women subverting the patriarchy, then this is a good complement to the theme of castration, as the “woman as seen, man as see-er” is an obvious binary opposition in patriarchal ideologies (btw, I wrote a dissertation on this… well, on related things).

-The fact that these women show up at bridges is a great example of the association of supernaturals with liminal space (though I confess I have no idea if these bridge women are common in Japanese folklore or not). By liminal I mean in-between. This is easiest to see in terms of geography, as these women are found at rivers, common markers of boundaries (I think also of the fact that liminal spaces are common in oral poetry, a point I picked up somewhere but can’t remember, and that many important moments in Norse mythology take place in in-between places, like a coastline), but it has a semantic dimension as well, meaning, involving the boundaries between things/concepts. Think “both/and” or “neither/nor”–fairies show up at twilight, when it is neither day nor night, people in Scandinavian folktales, at least, are at-risk during in-between times of their life (between birth and baptism, between childhood and adulthood, etc), and (again in scandi folklore, sorry, it is what I know) you find spirits associated with water mills, which are often geographically on the periphery, between the human community and the wilderness, and semantically in-between in that it is both/and neither/nor land/water (build above a stream as it must be). The bridge location is an obvious one for a supernatural, then–both/and neither/nor land/water (which, of course, is why the Billy Goats Gruff run into a troll at a bridge). Liminality in this sense is, of course, bound up in some very basic cognitive/linguistic faculties, and so it is no surprise that this seems to be a pretty universal aspect of folk narrative (and other narrative–though this is not to say that we can’t find supposed “universals” expressed very differently, or expressive of very different concerns, from culture to culture and person to person).

And to end, I can’t help but note how even at the academic level it can be easy for us to think “what! penises! this is ridiculous, no one believes something like this might happen!”, given that at this conference this past weekend my friend and colleague Merrill Kaplan, who does both Old Norse lit and Scandinavian folklore like myself (but more and better, if I may say so) gave a talk reinterpreting one of the words in a particularly odd tale about the conversion in Norway in which our intrepid missionary comes across a cult in which women cuddle a dismembered and preserved horse prick. Yup. In the very lively discussion that followed (wow, people had Opinions on this…) one of the throw-away comments implied that none of us took seriously the idea that there ever actually was a cult practice like this, since it was really just totally ridiculous. Merrill (and for the record, I’m quite convinced by her argument throughout, but can’t say I am super familiar with the philological issues) insisted we had to take the story seriously–not meaning we had to assume a cult actually did look like this once, but that, however much it was meant to ridicule pagans, the story must be taken as believable against the (admittedly biased) horizon of expectations of medieval Christian Icelanders when it comes to what paganism might look like. I do find myself agreeing that, in a more explicitly historical text like the one in question (Flateyjarbók), however much the intent is to mock, it will still build on what people are willing to see as a reasonable expectation. And you know, there is so much crazy stuff (sorry, not an emic perspective there) in world religion and mythology (can’t single out my own religion here either) that at some point you have to say a horse-penis-cuddling-cult is not necessarily out of the question… Nor are spooky women collecting eye balls and pricks, apparently, at least at the level of legend.

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I got to see Othello for the first time at the CalShakes outdoor theater in Orinda. My third time out there–I saw Romeo and Juliet a few years back and King Lear last year (my first time for that play too–I know, I don’t keep up with the classics so well, but what can I say, my PhD is in Icelandic lit from 800+ years ago–no time for the newbies…). The aesthetic of the CalShakes productions seems to be a sort of deconstructed, industrial feel–or maybe that’s just what they do whenever they hear I’m coming I don’t know. In any case, I’ve enjoyed it a lot.


Did a pretty hasty sketch of Othello in a hoodie–alas, too hasty to end up being a reasonable likeness of Aldo Billingslea (who has a longer face and somewhat different hair), so, um, we’ll just say I’m illustrating the concept…

Their treatment of Othello was especially minimalist–everyone sat in a circle, and those not in the scene stayed seated, while those speaking would at times look at, or circle those they spoke of. I thought it was a neat way to visualize the network of relationships as they shifted with the progressing plot. Dress was contemporary, and Aldo Billingslea (professor at Santa Clara University), who played Othello, wore a hoodie–whether this had been done yet I don’t know, but it was only a matter of time, and I thought it fit well with CalShakes’ usual way of doing things. Some of the additional bits may grate some listeners–several spoken bits added (like wikipedia-style info re: one of the sites, other random bits), occasional use of live video projected above the stage, and, right at the climatic, final moment, they broke for audience discussion. The latter is the only bit that I was bothered by, but not because it was necessarily a bad idea, and it certainly fit with what they were trying to do with the play–I just hate giving random adults a chance to talk. Which sounds bad I guess, but, well, the teacher in me just prefers working with folks who understand themselves as students and don’t have an inflated sense of their own contribution… ah, well, more likely I think it’s just that I hate being in a classroom that I’m not running, haha.

In any case–I recommend this production, at least if you are someone who can handle stripped-down Shakespeare. The play itself is already so appropriate for the #BLM lens they were going for that some might feel some of the additions edged towards preachy, but I think they come off as valid dressing.

And it is such a beautiful theater–come early for the food and booze, both of which I recommend, and picnic underneath the eucalyptus before the play starts. And they often have talks beforehand as well, though I’ve never been to those. Probably great though, I’m sure.

Hm, it occurs to me I sometimes suggest parallels in Old Norse literature when I review books, movies, etc–like my discussion of valkyries and their lovers after watching Kubo. Shakespeare isn’t as far off from my field as one might think–Hamlet is after all based in part on Amleth in Saxo Grammaticus’ History of the Danes. The tragic love story of Othello, where (spoiler alert) the general is convinced that his wife has been cheating on him with, um, well, tragic results, could I guess be compared to Ermanaric’s execution of his son, and later his young wife Svanhildr, daughter of the famed Sigurðr of the Völsung cycle (Prose Edda has a version of this), after they were falsely accused of having an affair. Of course the romance in Othello seems legit, while Ermanaric is pretty much a dirty old man who screws everything up (OK, maybe I’m projecting modern sensibilities on the text a bit…), so I don’t recommend anyone push the parallel too far…

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I’ve had a science fiction idea for a novella or novel bumping around the back of my brain for about a decade now. It’s evolved a lot over the years, and about the time I started this blog and had a brief run of poem publications I started layering some inspirations from my academic life in Old Norse literature and Scandinavian Folklore into things. I’d been figuring I’d write it up eventually after finding some time to research the science-stuff (fantasy has always been more natural for me to write as a mythologist/folklorist, even if I love sci-fi). Never actually got around to developing it beyond some conceptual brainstorming, but about a couple weeks ago it suddenly occurred to me that this could be a decent webcomic–and doing it as a webcomic would take some pressure off as far as getting all the science “right”, since the fictionality and spectacle of it all is given more reign in visual media. Since I’m behind on posting this month (I’ve got things I want to post about, just no time before leaving on a trip this weekend), I thought I’d put up the visual brainstorming I’ve been doing so far, then after that some other sketches from the last 5 years that I think fall into the genealogy of this project when it comes to my own work. I hope you enjoy!


A potential visualization of my key characters–just playing around though. Could be completely different. I do love drawing long black hair with my brush and calligraphy pens though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that stayed…


First attempt visualizing the spaceship–same design, for the most part, as what I draw in the first test page below. I think this design will change a lot. The ship is supposed to be traveling at relativistic speeds, so I’m obviously imagining some super-duper energy source and engines, but am otherwise trying to have a bit of a nod to realism, with a shield to protect from interstellar dust (which from what I understand would essentially be cosmic rays at this speed…), and am showing the ship entering a star system (or here a system of planet and moons) backwards as it decelerates. If you’ve been following my art, you know I have a thing for space scenes in my moleskines sketches–this is the first time I’ve tried to include secondary reflections (like “earth-shine” on the moon) in my art. Didn’t turn out quite as I’d like, but I’m still kinda proud. 🙂


Then I started sketching out some test pages–hadn’t really developed the story too far yet, but enjoyed myself so much that I went and inked the pages. General story line is about what I have planned, but details are mostly just spontaneous ideas and I don’t know whether they’ll survive. The full awkwardness of my current ship design shows here, I’m afraid–will definitely need to work on that. The whole thing is pretty rough, and if I ever get a chance to actually develop this it final drafts will be done digitally and will be more more detailed and cleaner.

Those are the project-sketches I have so far. Following are some other bits of art that in some way precede this:


When I first starting doing digital art on my iPad back in 2010 as a new PhD who felt like he’d been putting off his creative work for too long, I ended up with a few sketches (I believe the top one, the first, I did while watching Mulan) that I had a webcomic idea for–never ended up developing that, but I think it’s basically gotten folded into my current idea.


Like I say above, drawing long dark hair is such a pleasure with a pen brush or equivalent–though these sketches only apply to the current design of my heroine, and I can’t promise she’ll look the same in the end…


Speaking of adventuresome heroines with long dark hair…


Some of my Goblin Week sketches (started and run by Evan Dahm on tumblr) kinda fit the spirit of othwerworldly adventure that I’m going for here.



And then of course my valkyrie pics seem very relevant now, both for visual development and for thematic parallels. Not that my story is a “Valkyrie story”, but there are bits and pieces feeding my thoughts here…


So there we go! After doing my three test pages I have to say that this project is feeling very doable–not sure yet whether I’ll actually be able to fit it in, but it’s fun to think about! And if you think it looks interesting you should definitely speak up so I know there would be an audience! The closest I’ve gotten to a serial comic is my Grim Bunny series, but this project would be a thoroughly developed, “traditional” webcomic. Hope I will get to do this eventually!

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More on Dayanna’s coloring book project!!!

Viking Specialist at Large

Two months before the completed Viking Coloring Book heads to the printing facilities at ACMRS. Less than two months. Its going well- more than 200 motifs illustrating artifacts, landscapes, the flora and the fauna relating to the Viking world have been inked and scanned. More than 50 of the planned pages are plotted of the intended 75 and that is a pretty cool feeling.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA Some of the coloring book motifs on the desk.

I’ve been arranging event appearances for myself recently. Here’s the current schedule:

9/24/2016Viking Snack Fest hosted by Sons of Norway at Salida Public Library. I’ll have a table of books and art for this event.
10/1/2016Viking Nations signing at Barnes and Noble Weberstown in Stockton.
11/5/2016Speaking during a poster session at the California Librarian’s Association conference in Sacramento where I’ll talk about being a specialist doing public events at libraries.
5/2017Member of a…

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Kubo Sketch

A quick sketch of the protagonist–did this while too tired, I think, may redo eventually… But no he doesn’t have a short left arm, it’s just reaching forward, k? Also, I think I got the costume wrong…

I got to watch Kubo and the Two Strings a week or so ago (didn’t review it sooner due to some unexpected medical issues–all better now, far as I can tell), and really enjoyed it–and was super bummed that there were only three of us watching (and in a fairly large theater). OK, it was a matinee, but still, it’s odd how poorly the movie has been doing despite the very positive reviews. I won’t say there weren’t bits that felt off at times, and the ending could be taken as too stereotypical a “love conquers all” message, but really, that’s no worse than every other movie of this sort (and it was really more of a redemptive ending rather than a Care-Bear-Stare ending), and Kubo manages to get some really great twists in there–definitely some character revelations that I was not prepared for (though I caught on a bit in the build-up), and the “conquer through love!” ending (spoiler alert I guess, but really it’s a lot more complex than that…) involved enough tragedy mixed with closure that I really can’t fault it–in fact, reminds me a bit of Astrid Lindgren’s Brothers Lionheart, taken as an fantasy aimed at prolonging the work of mourning sufficiently to find that needed closure. Hm, this is all pretty obscure I guess, since I don’t want to give any especially concrete spoilers (and since I expect there aren’t many who’ve read Brothers Lionheart).

Check out the trailer here. Mild spoilers below.

The cultural setting is Japanese, though I don’t believe actual Japanese locations are used. I don’t know whether the mythological material referenced really corresponds to actual Japanese mythology/folklore since I just have not studied that (would like to check it out though), but it is central to the story, and seems well done. We learn early on that Kubo has to beware of the moon–as we go on, we realize that if he is out at night the moon, who is (dun dun) his grandfather will steal his other eye (Kubo is missing an eye, btw, his patch hidden behind his hair). Kubo’s mother and her sisters had been working with their father, but she fell in love with Kubo’s father, whom she was sent to kill, and so betrayed her family. Soon after Kubo is born the moon and his daughters attack and Kubo’s mother takes him and flees. Years later Kubo has a reputation for playing his shamisen while telling stories and bringing origami figures to life (this is his particular magical power, inherited from his mother). He stays out too long one night, attempting to perform a ritual to commemorate his father (in this world, the dead respond–his dad doesn’t…). This lets his creepy warrior aunts fly in to find him, and his mother gives her life (well, it’s complicated…) to protect him, and he runs off–now with a monkey companion (originally a protective talisman given to him by his mother) and a bug soldier they find on their way. The quest he embarks on now is to find the armor and weapons his father had been seeking before–it was because these had so much potential to make him powerful that the moon decided to have him killed in the first place. And there is so much more going on there, but oh, I don’t want to spoil it too bad…

be_my_valkyrie_valentine_by_callego-d74zj5pThe further I got into the movie the more I became convinced I was watching something from Norse mythology or the sagas. No joke, everything connects to Scandinavian studies in the end–and you can trust me, because I’m a Scandinavianist, see? Anyway, the moon with his warlike and supernatural daughters is very reminiscent of Odin with his valkyries (and now I think of it, Kubo’s one-eyedness, and the idea that losing the other would bring him to a higher plane–spoiler again, that’s why the moon wants his eyes, so his grandson can join him–is rather Odinic in itself). Love affairs between human warriors and valkyries seem to have been a popular subject, as we have many showing up in the mythology and the sagas. The motif of a valkyrie falling for the man she was sent to kill (or to give defeat in battle, so same thing) and so rebelling against the Allfather is also prominent. Hm, is Kubo just a retelling of the Völsung material? Nah… but then again, I would not be surprised to find out the creators were influenced to some degree by Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas, which include a retelling of this very story. Is Kubo a piece of a pseudo-Japanese Ring Cycle, just with a milder, gentler Götterdämmerung ? I would buy that, actually…


My imagining of one of the Valkyrie romances from the mythology–though the Lay of Volund admittedly breaks the mould in certain ways…

Another element the movie shares with certain Norse stories is the quest to recover arms belonging to one’s father. Well, I can’t think at the moment of a quest involving multiple pieces of armor acquired in stages, but certainly with the Völsung material Sigurd’s reforging of his father’s sword is quite prominent, and in one of the legendary sagas we have the warrior maiden Hervör visiting her father’s revenant in order to acquire his mighty sword. A key difference though–while Kubo is seeking some mystical special armor and weapon otherwise unassociated with his father apart from his father’s own incomplete quest, the Norse material is more focused on powerful heirlooms (well, though they may have a supernatural origin as well, I suppose)–and of course, given the unpredictable quality of steel used at the time, it is not surprising that we would find old weapons typically coded as good, or even special weapons–it’s not a matter just of the latest and greatest, you see, but of whether or not the metal has been proven. Old swords are necessarily good swords, and so all the more important as heirlooms (and I owe this point to John Lindow).

OK, Old Norse parallels aside (after all, these aren’t exactly surprising parallels to find between narrative traditions), I have one last point about the movie–specifically the credits. Where are the Asian people in the credits?? OK, there are a few, but I was rather surprised not to see more Japanese Americans involved. There were some Japanese American associations that had given their stamp of approval, sure, and I would not at all want to say that white folks (like myself) shouldn’t work with POC characters, but representation in the industry matters as much as representation on the screen. This isn’t something I’ve looked into much, so I won’t push it any more here, but I note that it was pointed out before the movie came out as well.

That said, the movie is definitely worth seeing, so get out there before it goes away! Sadly, probably won’t be in theaters long. 😦

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13659048_10105479182161833_7042778099053674245_nYikes, this will be the only post I make this month–and I only did one last month too. Plus, I’ve already posted about my translation of Ola Sigurdson’s Heavenly Bodies, though last time it hadn’t actually come out yet (and the release date I shared then ended up getting pushed back by almost a month). Well, it is out now, and you should all GO OUT AND BUY TEN COPIES RIGHT NOW!!!! Well, OK, not so much urgency, I guess, given that I’ve already been paid for my translation services and will not be getting royalties myself (which doesn’t surprise me with an academic translation like this–I believe the case is different with literary translations, which I confess I would like to move into eventually…). The list price of the book is $60 (actually not so bad for a rather erudite, and potentially obscure, book like this, though I hope the price will help it become less obscure), but Amazon has it for about $43. I’m waiting for it to show up at the UC Berkeley and GTU libraries here in Berkeley… may have to nudge someone about that.

The book is, in short, on the theology of the body, beginning with Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity’s scorn for the body, preferring the spiritual over the corporeal, and going on to both affirm this critique and then to place it in its proper historical situation in 19th century Protestantism–given the centrality of the Incarnation in Christianity, we have to suspect that the religion was not always so “body-denying.” The book then proceeds in three parts of several chapters each, covering first the Incarnation (both the development of the doctrine in the early Church and more recent theological contributions), the Gaze (covering philosophies thereof along with the Byzantine Iconoclasm and the particular Gaze embodied by Jesus in the Gospels), and, at most length, Embodiment (ranging from Merleau-Ponty to Foucault and Butler, from the “closed” Classical body to the open “grotesque” body, to torture, to S&M, to the Eucharist…) OK, look, you will just have to read it yourself. Only $43 on Amazon!!

Since I was (thankfully, given how little time I had finishing up) not asked to give any sort of “Translator’s Note” (I did not expect to write one–in fact, not all translators get to show up on the title page, so I’m very happy I made it to so prominent a place with my first such job), I did not have an opportunity to give the usual “Any reason you might find to dislike this book is clearly my (the translator’s) fault, and no one should blame Ola or the editors at all, because really, if there is a jackass here, it is me.” Or some such. Editors and author all seemed happy with the end result, but certainly there are plenty of places where I could wish for just one more pass of revisions, and here and there I see something where I think “I thought I’d changed that…” (and one place so far where the editors changed something without sticking to the phrasing Ola and I had agreed on, but it still works), but so far I haven’t caught any meaning-changing errors (nor, apparently, did Ola or Eerdmans), and I trust that there are not too many places (ideally very few, but it is my first time doing this…) where my clumsy prose gets in the way of Ola’s argumentation. My first drafts certainly had me thinking too much in Swedish while attempting to write in English. My many revisions (later on with Ola’s commentary) were very helpful in working this out and situating the text more firmly in the target language, but I fear there are still spots that held out till the end. I won’t share any thoughts here on particular translation choices (there were some tricky bits), but we’ll see, maybe that will be a post for the future.

13615127_10105479179038093_2631524740532332328_n.jpgThe project itself was a delight, if often challenging (certainly in scope–let me tell you, this book is a brick), and in spite of the additional stress of translating the last third or so while also filling in as a lecturer in the Scandinavian Section at UCLA (also a fun job, just, you know, more work–also more $$ tho, so that was nice). I’ve told friends and family that this project was like being paid to sit in on three or more graduate seminars in very different fields, which I note was part of the attraction for me. While the ultimate point of the book belongs to (Christian) systematic theology (itself of non-professional interest for my very [in this subject] amateur self), Heavenly Bodies also constitutes a very erudite work in both the history of religions and philosophy, in particular the more continental side of philosophy that owes so much to the later reception of phenomenology, and in particular with regard to two subjects I have long been interested in within the humanities: the gaze and embodiment (the former of which figured prominently in my dissertation on ekphrasis in Viking age poetry–but let the uninitiated beware, while treatments of the gaze and embodiment are ubiquitous from the early 20th century on, what is meant by and the significance of each can vary widely depending what school of thought you are looking at). Ola covers a lot of ground, and diligently and clearly (again, fingers crossed that damn translator did his job right) presents the thought of everyone from St Paul to Origen, Schleiermacher to Barth and beyond to various feminist theologians, laying out the relevant arguments in a sympathetic manner even if he will then go on to argue against, or beyond, them. The philosophers and theorists I am more familiar with are all on display here as well, and more, covering both hermeneutic and radical phenomenologies (ie, from Ricoeur and Merleau-Ponty to Derrida and Marion), as well as various “post-phenomenological” thinkers, from Foucault to Butler (and we also find many other disciplines represented, from psychoanalysis to cultural anthropology–but look, my fingers are getting tired so let’s stop there…). I find Ola’s presentations of these various, often very difficult, philosophies to be quite clear and helpful–well, OK, it is still philosophy and theory, and you will struggle to work through a tenth of the book if you don’t even have a reasonable sense of who Heidegger (for example) is, so I can’t recommend it as a gift for your ten year old niece–maybe wait till she’s finished college, though you will have to suggest she take Philosophy, or English, or Communications, Feminist Studies, something along those lines. Even better, I’m still looking for a teaching position for the Fall and would be happy to tutor the whole family. Look, we’ve already got a textbook…

Well, that was a bit of a ramble. I’ll close by thanking Mark Safstrom for sending Eerdmans my name when they were looking for a translator, former editor-in-chief at Eerdmans Jon Pott, who entrusted me with this job, James Ernest who took over for Jon as I was finishing up the translation, and especially Ola, who wrote this fine and fascinating book and who was so essential in his help with my revisions–I was very grateful for his willingness to spend so much time on a project that was otherwise almost a decade in his past, and I dearly hope the final result does some degree of justice to the original.


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