My name is Joy Marie Clarkson. I am a research associate in theology and literature at King’s College London. I am the Books and Culture Editor for Plough Quarterly. I host a podcast called Speaking with Joy. I’ve written for places like The Tablet, Christianity Today, and Plough. I wrote a book called Aggressively Happy: a realist’s guide to believing in the goodness of life. You can read the introduction+ first chapter of Aggressively Happy if you subscribe to this newsletter.

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I completed my PhD in Theology at the University of Saint Andrews on the sparkling east coast of Scotland. I wrote about how art can prepare us for death, looking at the role of art in the spiritual practices of the past, and how those affective practices persist in the present day, where modern, secular people still look to art, literature, and music as resources for attuning the emotional life, finding points of orientation in the world, and constructing a sense of self. I also have an academic interest in disenchantment in contemporary literature.

In 2017, I started a podcast exploring the intersection of culture, the arts (visual, literary, and musical), and religion, which has enabled me to trick many interesting people into having conversations with me. You can read more about the podcast below, and receive updates about it when you subscribe.

News: New Book!

You are a Tree: and other metaphors to nourish life, thought, and prayer comes out Feb 20, 2023!

This book explores how the metaphors we use shape the lives we live. In a world dominated by metaphors of machines and money, this books resists impersonal ways of viewing ourselves and the world, offering gentler and more generative metaphors for thought, prayer, and life. Through personal meditations, Scripture, poetry, and art, I offer new ways to experience God, ourselves, our relationships, and the world in a new way and with deeper meaning.

Preorder You are a Tree now!

GIVE AWAY: Until the release of You are a Tree on February 20th, I will continue to give a month of free subscription to anyone who pre-orders the book. You can claim that by pre-ordering the book and sending me screenshot of your receipt via email: thejoynessthebrave[at]gmail.com.

A little more about this Substack newsletter…

During my PhD, I started a podcast called Speaking with Joy (after a lifetime of people making puns on my name, I felt I was entitled to do the same). Its original concept was to take a theme (home, death, touch, etc.) and explore it through three works of art: one visual, one musical, one literary. My goal with this was two fold: to curate beautiful, insightful, and intriguing works of art for people to enjoy, and to have good conversations about religion and culture, and encourage others to do the same. Along the way, I got to talk to people like Rowan Williams, Malcolm Guite, Ben Quash, Clare Carlisle, John Swinton, Christopher Tin, Andy Crouch, Alan Jacobs, Kaitlyn Schiess, and many other lovely, thoughtful people.

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

One of the most enjoyable things about the previous iterations of public rambling was that it created a little online community of people with similar interests. I started a Patreon, which proved to be a real source of joy and community. We read books together and talk about them. We shared intriguing, encouraging, and amusing things with each other. And the advantage on my end was that I got to pick the brains of readers and ask opinions on directions the podcast and popular projects will take. It was helpful for me, and I hope nourishing for others.

After finishing my PhD, starting a job, working to get my research published, and writing books, I’ve wanted to find a way to engage that felt more integrated with the work I’m already doing, so that I feel less fragmented. Thus, this newsletter was born. Over the past year, I have begun to wonder if the notes I keep, the quotes I record, the scraps I like but throw away, wouldn’t be enjoyable for some people to read. If, in fact, writing them out, sharing them, and discussing them might help my writing. So that is what I intend to do with this substack: invite you into the research and writing I’m doing, sending you quotes I’ve culled from books I’m reading, ramblings on ideas I’m trying to pick apart (or put together), booklists, images, and historic figures.

Why sign up?

Free version of Substack:

  • Never miss a podcast! If you sign up, you’ll automatically receive my podcast episodes (and whatever show notes I attach) to your inbox upon their release.

  • Updates on the projects and books I’m working on (including my upcoming book You Are a Tree: and other metaphors to nourish life, thought, prayer).

  • Invitations to bookclubs, events, and launch groups.

Paid version of the newsletter:

  • Monthly Explorative Essays: At the moment I’m working on an academic book about how art can prepare us for death (my PhD thesis), while teaching two classes, one on death in art, and the other on the idea of beauty in western society. As I work on these projects through reading, writing, and editing, you can expect to get monthly entries of what I’m learning, working, reworking. Sometimes this will take the form of annotated quote collection (my favourite passages from a reading, with my comments included), an excerpt of writing that I’m working on, or a collection of important thinkers, texts, poems, or works of art, on particular subject. Read with me as I write.

  • Saturday Missives: For several years now, I’ve written an end of week missive, reporting interesting, beautiful, or amusing things I’d encountered, and updating you on my (mis)adventures and upcoming projects.

  • Book/Movie/Music Lists: At whim, I shall post lists and reviews of books, movies, and music. Perhaps they shall be around a theme (autumn! death! mothers!) or perhaps simply a list of what I’ve been reading and what I think about it. I don’t promise regularity on these, but I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Join the Crew!

Substack suggests that I sell you on why you need to join this newsletter. This seems a little audacious to me. Do you really need to get a newsletter of my ramblings about literature, theology, and culture? Do you need to discuss books, music, and cultural phenomenon with strangers from the internet? I can’t imagine why you would need to join this newsletter. I hope you’d join it because you want to. Because you enjoy reading and thinking about these things. Because you’d like to discuss them with other people (as you can here). I suppose I do feel some need to ramble about these things. So perhaps you too feel a need to read about them. If so, I hope you’ll join

To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit Substack.com.

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