Modernism & T.S. Eliot with Tony Domestico

I’m really pleased to welcome Dr. Anthony Domestico to Old Books with Grace today to chat about modernist poetry including my favorite twentieth-century poet, T.S. Eliot. Warning: this episode is longer than my usual episodes because I lost track of time in my excitement about Eliot, and then, in further excitement about Eliot, I did not want to cut anything out.

Anthony Domestico is chair of the Literature Department at Purchase College, SUNY and the books columnist for Commonweal. His reviews and essays have appeared in The AtlanticThe BafflerBook Post, the Boston GlobeLit Hu​b, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many other places. His book, Poetry and Theology in the Modernist Period, is available from Johns Hopkins.

Check out the episode on the platform of your choice, including Apple & Spotify.

Dayspring: Advent 2022

Today, I conclude the Advent series with some very, very old poetry. Poetry, in fact, that you’re already familiar with. You likely sing a form of it, or listen to it each year. Today, I am looking at Old English and Middle English translations of the Great O Antiphons, better known to us today as the foundation of the wonderful Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Let’s look for the Dayspring, the Dawn, the Sun of Justice.

Listen now on the podcasting platform of your choice, including Apple and Spotify. And as always, I deeply appreciate your reviews and ratings–they help other listeners to find Old Books with Grace and are a source of encouragement to me as well! You can also financially support the podcast through Buy Me a Coffee. I use the donations to pay for podcast equipment, fees, and books to keep these episodes fresh. Thanks for thinking about it!

Art is by El Greco, The Adoration of the Shepherds, at the Prado, Madrid.

Heaven Cannot Hold Him: Advent 2022

Welcome back to this year’s Advent series on Old Books with Grace. This episode meditates on Christina Rossetti’s A Christmas Carol, and William Langland’s Piers Plowman. An interesting duo, separated by 500 years–and you’ll find out why Grace pairs them in a contemplation on nature imagery and incarnational love.

Listen now on the podcasting platform of your choice, including Apple and Spotify. And as always, I deeply appreciate your reviews and ratings–they help other listeners to find Old Books with Grace and are a source of encouragement to me as well!

Harke! Despair Away: Advent 2022

Old Books with Grace is in the middle of an Advent pilgrimage. Welcome to week two of an Advent series focusing on Advent and Christmas poetry.


Here we sit among an alien people. Even stranger, we recognize that we are unfathomably alien to ourselves, after T.S. Eliot’s “The Journey of the Magi.” As pilgrims we wend our way to death, and via death, life itself in utter fullness. And here the seventeenth-century poet and cleric George Herbert breaks in and proclaims, “Away, despair!” Yes, today in this second installment of the Advent series, we are reading together one of my favorite poets, George Herbert, specifically his beautiful, winsome poem, The Bag. If your alien pilgrim status is wearing a bit heavy these days, like mine is, Herbert is here for you.

Listen now on the podcasting platform of your choice, including Apple and Spotify. And as always, I deeply appreciate your reviews and ratings–they help other listeners to find Old Books with Grace and are a source of encouragement to me as well!

Art: “Christ as Savior and Judge” 
by Petrus Christus (ca. 1450)

Were we led all this way for birth or death?: Advent 2022

In the first episode of the Advent 2022 series exploring Advent & Christmas poetry from the past, I meditate on T.S. Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi. 

This week the ancient season of Advent has begun. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning a coming or arrival. Advent waits upon the coming or arrival of Jesus Christ. I’m going to shockingly quote Wikipedia here, because it actually states the meaning of Advent succinctly and well: “the season of Advent in the Christian calendar anticipates the “coming of Christ” from three different perspectives: the physical nativity in Bethlehem, the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer, and the eschatological Second Coming.” In other words, during Advent we wait for Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the Incarnate God, we anticipate his transformative entry into our hearts and our ongoing sanctification, and we declare our expectation that he will come again to judge the living and the dead, as we repeat in the Creed. Advent is multilayered. 

This is my justification for kicking off this series with an Epiphany poem. Yes, that’s right—a poem about the wise men. But here’s why I am starting with T.S. Eliot’s “The Journey of the Magi.” Christians are pilgrims, wanderers in the world, not at home but on a journey. Advent comes from the same root word as adventure, and we are these adventurers, pilgrims on a slow, meandering, strange trip home. “The Journey of the Magi” is not a cheery Christmas poem. It lacks joyful shepherds, the anticipation of a beautiful baby, beautiful Mary and trusting Joseph. This is your welcoming space if you’re not feeling particularly joyful in your preparations for Christmas, if you’re feeling far from home, like a broken wanderer, or if you’re on your own particular and confusing journey for the Christ child. 

Listen now on the podcasting platform of your choice, including Apple and Spotify. And as always, I deeply appreciate your reviews and ratings–they help other listeners to find Old Books with Grace and are a source of encouragement to me as well!

Puritan Prayers with Robert Elmer

As a medievalist, I must admit to being slightly suspicious of Puritans. So I was eager to chat with and learn from Robert Elmer, compiler of a beautiful selection of prayers by Puritan thinkers. In this episode, I welcome Robert, the editor of Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans and Fount of Heaven: Prayers of the Early Church, the first two books in the Prayers of the Church series from Lexham Press. We talk about the beauty of these prayers from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries and about Robert’s own process of finding and selecting these historical and powerful prayers. 

Robert Elmer is the editor of Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans and Fount of Heaven: Prayers of the Early Church, the first two books in the Prayers of the Church series from Lexham Press. He’s also the author of more than 50 books of Christian fiction, devotion, and apologetics—for younger readers as well as adults. He and his family live in Lynden, Washington.

Listen on the podcasting platform of your choice, including Apple and Spotify.

On Beauty and Literature with Sarah Clarkson

Beauty is just as significant to our spiritual and moral lives as truth and goodness. Sarah Clarkson has often found this beauty in literature. Grace welcomes Sarah, author of This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks Into Our Darkness, to discuss the intersections between story, beauty, and suffering. Along the way, some very recognizable names come up as sources of profound beauty in literature: J.R.R. Tolkien, L.M. Montgomery, George Eliot, and more… Listen on the podcasting platform of your choice!

Sarah Clarkson

Sarah Clarkson is a writer who loves to explore the intersection of story, suffering, and beauty. She studied theology (BTh, MSt) at Oxford and has authored a number of books, most recently This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks Into Our Darkness. She mulls life and books in her newsletter, A Note From Sarah, presents seminars on great novels and theology, and hosts read-aloud fellowships on Patreon and Instagram. She can usually be found with either a book or a cup of tea in hand in the Oxford vicarage she shares with her Anglican priest husband, Thomas, and their three children. You can find her at sarahclarkson.com.

If you enjoyed this episode, I’d really appreciate it if you rated and/or reviewed on your favorite podcasting platform. Thank you!

The Delights of Dickens with Gina Dalfonzo

Grace welcomes Gina Dalfonzo, editor of The Gospel in Dickens (Plough Publishing House) and founder and editor of Dickensblog, to chat all things Charles Dickens. What is the appeal of this wordy writer (whom, as Gina reminds us, was NOT paid by the word)? Join Gina and Grace for a fun conversation discussing why we love and return to Charles Dickens over and over despite his foibles and flaws.

Gina Dalfonzo is the author of Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis and One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church (both for Baker Books), and editor of The Gospel in Dickens (Plough Publishing House). She is a writer and editor at Christ and Pop Culture, and founder and editor of Dickensblog. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, Christianity Today, Plough Quarterly, The Weekly Standard, Fathom, and elsewhere. She publishes a biweekly book review newsletter, “Dear, Strange Things,” at http://dearstrangethings.substack.com. She enjoys playing the piano, gardening, and watching figure skating and classic movies.

Listen to this episode anywhere you get your podcasts!

If you enjoy it, I’d appreciate it so much if you rated or reviewed on the platform of your choice. It helps others to find the show and helps me out as well!

The Beauty of Old English with Eleanor Parker

Recording this episode was a bit of a trip. Dr. Eleanor Parker was very gracious with me as my microphone failed to do its ONE JOB–recording. Oh well! We still had a delightful time discussing Old English words, the Anglo-Saxon calendar year, and what she recommends for reading if you’re interested in Old English poetry.

Eleanor Parker is Lecturer in Medieval English Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford. She is the author of Dragon Lords: The History and Legends of Viking England (2018), Conquered: The Last Children of Anglo-Saxon England (2022), and Winters in the World: A Journey Through the Anglo-Saxon Year (2022). She has also written for History Today and is the creator of the Clerk of Oxford blog.

Dr. Eleanor Parker

Take a listen on the podcasting platform of your choice, including Apple & Spotify. If you enjoy this episode, I’d very much appreciate it if you took the time to rate and review wherever you listen. It helps other folks to find this podcast! Thank you!

The Love of Learning with Zena Hitz

Season three of Old Books With Grace has arrived!

On the season premiere of Old Books With Grace, Grace welcomes Dr. Zena Hitz, author of Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life, tutor at St. John’s College, and founder of the Catherine Project. Why is it important to love learning for its own sake and not instrumentalize it? How can we cultivate an intellectual life? What does Augustine of Hippo mean by curiositas? Hear Grace and Dr. Hitz’s thoughts on these questions and more…

Listen on the podcasting platform of your choice.

Dr. Zena Hitz

Zena Hitz is a Tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, where she has the joy of teaching great books of mathematics, science, and literature, as well as in her home fields of classics and philosophy. She recieved an M.Phil. in Classics from Cambridge University (1996) and a PhD in Philosophy from Princeton University (2005). Her academic work has focused upon Aristotle. More recently, Dr. Hitz has offered public defense for learning for its own sake, including in her book Lost In Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life (Princeton, 2020). Her essays on the importance of humanistic study have appeared in Commonweal, First Things, New Statesman, Washington Post, Womankind and elsewhere. In 2020, Dr. Hitz founded the Catherine Project, a non-profit which hosts serious conversations on great books, open to everyone. Her new book for general audiences, A Philosopher Looks at the Religious Life (Cambridge, 2023), gives an account of the Christian ascetical tradition and its importance in everyday life.

Modernism & T.S. Eliot with Tony Domestico Old Books with Grace

Grace welcomes Dr. Anthony Domestico, author of Poetry and Theology in the Modernist Period and chair of the literature department at Purchase SUNY, to Old Books with Grace today to chat about modernist poetry including my favorite twentieth-century poet, T.S. Eliot. Warning: this episode is slightly longer than usual episodes because Grace lost track of time in her excitement about Eliot! 
  1. Modernism & T.S. Eliot with Tony Domestico
  2. Dayspring: Advent 2022
  3. Heaven Cannot Hold Him: Advent 2022
  4. Harke! Despair Away: Advent 2022
  5. Were we led all this way for birth or death?: Advent 2022