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Alissa Wilkinson

Alissa Wilkinson is assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City, chief film critic at Christianity Today, and editor of QIdeas.org. Her work on pop culture, politics, art, and religion appears in publications including The Atlantic, Christianity Today, Books & Culture, Marginalia Review of Books, Relief, the Globe & Mail, WORLD, and Paste. In 2008, she founded The Curator and served as editor while on staff with International Arts Movement until 2010. Read More ›

Articles by Alissa Wilkinson
  • That Pesky Third Bit

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Following on from my blog post last week—which seems to have struck quite a nerve, judging from the feedback I got (which showed that many, many people are grappling with these vocational questions all the time)—I'd like to say just two things.

  • Vocation Takes Patience

    Alissa Wilkinson

    I read an interesting blog post by Oliver Segovia on the Harvard Business Review last week: "To Find Happiness, Forget About Passion." Segovia recounts the story of a peer who was primed to pursue her passion (in this case, earning a Ph.D. in the liberal arts, which we all have been told ad nauseum is not a, shall we say, profit-making enterprise these days), but found when she got out of school that there were no jobs, and ended up teaching part-time in a small research centre.

  • Pick Up Your Brush

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Last Thursday I was at the Tate Modern in London for the highly-lauded retrospective of the work of Gerhard Richter, the German painter. Born in 1932, Richter has been working for nearly five decades in a variety of mediums and styles—from colour grids to highly detailed realism to total abstraction, and even some glass sculptures in there for good measure.

  • Generous Love

    Alissa Wilkinson

    The fourth candle in the Advent wreath stands for love. I've thought a lot about love this past year (sometimes here on the blog). Just last week, I was talking with coworkers about a piece that appeared in the New York Times: The Generous Marriage. You've probably read it by now, but if not, the idea is simple: researchers find that generosity ("the virtue of giving good things to one's spouse freely and abundantly") is one of the leading indicators of marital success—more, even, than sex.

  • The Joyful One

    Alissa Wilkinson

    I discovered, as I was making sure I had my facts straight about the third Sunday of Advent, that it's known as the "joyful Sunday." Not only that: tradition dictates that the candle itself is pink, in contrast to the others, which are usually purple. (Now you know!)

  • Advent Peace

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Yesterday was the second Sunday of Advent, and the candle we light that day stands for peace. I was thinking about peace, especially the idea of "peace time"—that is, the time when there are no violent conflicts in which we're directly engaged. To be honest, I don't know if we're in peace time or not down here in the U.S.—and not just because of the conflicts we're engaged in around the world, but because, well, there's a lot of unrest here.

  • Advent Hope

    Alissa Wilkinson

    The four candles in the Advent wreath signify four things: hope, peace, love, and joy. I thought of this last week as I scrolled through my friends' Twitter updates and saw all these reports of unrest and economic downturn and political squabbles and personal sadness juxtaposed with something startling: many proclamations of gratitude (in keeping with the Thanksgiving holiday).

  • Longing and restraint

    Alissa Wilkinson

    This Thursday is Thanksgiving down here in the U.S., and that signals the start of Christmas season—and the season of Advent, the beginning of the church calendar. Though I grew up in a church that did light the candles in the Advent wreath on the Sundays leading up to Christmas, I didn't really understand the significance of the season until a few years ago.

  • Not What We Expected

    Alissa Wilkinson

    In the New York Times magazine this weekend, Margaret Heidenry wrote of her experience as a homeschooled child in the 1970s—a time when, of course, homeschooling was illegal in the U.S. (it was not legalized in all fifty states until 1993). The piece (titled "My Parents Were Home-Schooling Anarchists") echoes a lot of the sentiments I hear from my peers and my students who were homeschooled.

  • What We Love

    Alissa Wilkinson

    For the past week or so, my students and I have been discussing the "humans as lovers" philosophical anthropology (using James K.A. Smith's Desiring the Kingdom as our guide). The class has focused mainly on how cultures develop and change, and this last piece helps us think about why they develop and change in certain ways.

  • Shaming Us Into It

    Alissa Wilkinson

    I (understandably) spend a great deal of time in the New York subways. The truth about subways is that you stop hearing the announcements after a while. I moved here a month before the bombings in the London Tube in 2005, and after that the announcements started: "Packages and other large containers are subject to random search by the police." I couldn't tell you the last time I heard the actual announcement, but just typing it out there, I could hear the voice that repeats it over the PA system, and I know that's correct, word for word.

  • Against Squeezing

    Alissa Wilkinson

    It might be self-aggrandizing, but, in the parlance of my generation, whatever: on Friday I wrote about two books about reading, which is a strange sort of down-the-rabbit-hole thing to do. It's especially strange to do it when you're also revisiting the practice of reading-for-a-grade, as I am now—my MFA program requires me to annotate ten books per quarter (just over a book a week), and I'm also reading books that I'm teaching from, so I'm spending all my time reading.

  • Free speech, taken for granted

    Alissa Wilkinson

    For days now, any time I talk to someone who's not from New York, they ask me about the Occupy Wall Street protests going on downtown. Truthfully, I have little to say. I ride the subway through the area, but that's underground, and otherwise everything I've seen of the protests, I've seen on Facebook.

  • Digging In

    Alissa Wilkinson

    As I mentioned last week, my students and I have been pondering the different ways Christians across time and space have viewed culture and their place in it. On Monday we tied it up by talking about the "Christ Transforming Culture" framework, in which we see culture as a fallen but redeemable thing, and so we work faithfully in our own vocations to join in God's work of restoring culture—all of it, both in individuals and institutions.

  • Left, Right, and Both

    Alissa Wilkinson

    I'm teaching a class on Christian cultural anthropology this term, and we're looking at Niebuhr's classic "Christ and Culture" typology, in which Niebuhr proposes that Christians have viewed their culture through five general lenses—Christ against culture, of culture, above culture, in tension/paradox with culture, and transforming culture.

  • The world can run without us

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Here's something for this Labour Day: A piece Jonathan Foust filed last week in The Atlantic defended senior officials who (gasp) choose to take weekends and holidays. Workaholism, as the article points out, is not actually a good thing, but it's also precisely what success in the Pentagon is predicated upon—not accomplishment, exactly, but what I, in my Wall Street days, used to call "pointless face time": sticking around even when you have nothing to do, writing useless memos, doing busy work.

  • All Present or Nothing

    Alissa Wilkinson

    I read Donald Hall's extraordinary memoir-of-sorts Life Work last week, in which Hall performs feats of narrative in a mere 124 pages by telling the story of his work and his ancestors' work, and the work habits of many others, and also battles cancer and rejoices in his marriage, and—well, you should just read it.

  • This age's big idea?

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Last Sunday, the NYTimes ran one of those lengthy opinion pieces that seems calculated to ruffle feathers and generate chatter. The thesis of the piece is that we are in a "post-idea" age. We have no more big ideas—just sort of, well, medium ideas, at best, that we share with our little groups on Facebook.

  • Fruitfulness

    Alissa Wilkinson

    A couple of weeks ago, I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the first of five ten-day residencies that are part of the low-residency M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University (held concurrently with and on the same campus as the Glen Workshop that Robert attended and wrote of last Friday.

  • A Brief Chat with Mako Fujimura on The Tree of Life

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Terrence Malick's highly anticipated and Palme d'Or-winning The Tree of Life (starring Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) was released earlier this summer to critical and popular buzz. Less a movie, more a cinematic symphony on grace and the creation of the world (complete with movements and repeated themes), the film garnered both praise and protests from critics and audiences alike.

  • Rules for Reviewing Books

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Last week, critic and former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky wrote at Slate about two marvelous snarky (and ultimately wrongheaded) takedowns of John Keats by his contemporaries. Part of their problem, he says, is that they ignored entirely the three rules of reviewing. Pinsky got them from some stylesheet he received from a magazine for which he was writing in the 1970s, but as he says:

  • Letters to the Future

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Last week, Jonathan Rauch started blogging—and he started with a diatribe against blogging, which he hates because it comes from the "self-congratulatory smugness of internet culture," which is inherently hostile to "people who want to read and think." He tries a nifty thought experiment: if all the blog posts of the last however-many years since the word blog was coined were lost, would anyone notice? He's pretty sure nobody would.

  • Digital Downtime

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Reposted from the Cardus After Hours blog (RIP). I've read dozens of articles that talk about how, for instance, Google might be making us stupid or being ultra-connected to the computer is probably a bad thing. Okay, I think—I don't really look at my laptop on weekends and make liberal use of Freedom to make sure I don't multitask too much.

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