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The Work of Enchantment Hardcover – June 28, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1412818605 ISBN-10: 1412818605

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Editorial Reviews


"[T]ruly enchanting… [H]e both inspires and informs to an astonishingly great degree… Del Nevo’s book is like a weaving that takes readers out of the de-souling of today’s world and its ubiquitous anxiety. He treats Proust, Rilke, and Goethe, the three giants of enchantment, as icons through which one’s own work can be done. Sharing his deep knowledge and feeling for their writing, Del Nevo helps readers reexperience the appreciation of ineffability, sadly neglected and maligned these days. The chapters on Proust, Rilke, and Goethe are equally beautiful. They encourage humanizing one’s life and the world—leaving behind being "dead among dead things." Finally, readers need to give time to this work of enchantment; the cultivation of a gentle presence happens gradually. Overall, this brilliant book offers something that is most necessary: enchanted hope for futuristic humanism… Highly recommended."

—S. Correa, CHOICE

The Work of Enchantment is a pick for college-level philosophy and cultural studies collections and poses that it’s a lack of “enchantment” that causes Westerners to experience mental illness. This enchantment can largely be found in art, but adults need to cultivate their ability to read, listen and absorb this art. Del Nevo offers a discussion of the historical and philosophical roots of enchantment, focuses on works in literature and providing literary examples of this lost art. This could have been reviewed in our literary section but is featured here for its broader appeal beyond the literary category.”

The Midwest Book Review, California Bookwatch – Reviewer’s Choice

“How refreshing to find a celebration of Beauty at a time when relativism famously mocks it, alongside Truth and Goodness. How comforting, as well, to revisit literary masterpieces that speak to our deepest sensibilities; to reaffirm the never-ending need that each of us has - or certainly should have - for soul-nourishment. Call it enchantment, or grace, or love; this book takes it seriously and enchants in turn.”

Juliana Geran Pilon, Ph.D,Director, Center for Culture and Security, Institute of World Politics, and author of Soulmates: Resurrecting Eve

“This is a beautiful book, immersed in the writings of three great artists—Proust, Rilke, Goethe—and their task of enchanting. In a time when the study of the humanities is in danger of perishing in our universities, and when religion, in its various forms, faces dissolution in the face of varieties of fundamentalism or simply inertia, and when culture is dazzled by its own glamour we are called back to read, to listen, to gaze upon the art whose enchantment is nourishment for the soul, and without which we cannot truly live.”

—David Jasper, University of Glasgow, Renmin University of China

“Matthew Del Nevo has written a highly personal and deeply felt affirmation of enchantment. Del Nevo argues that reflection on enchantment, in all of its many dimensions, is by no means a monopoly of literary and philosophical speculation but also a requirement of all who wish to embrace a life free of materialism, superficiality, and bad faith. Those readers who share this vision, and those who are unpersuaded, will benefit from reading this passionate and committed book.”

—Peter Baehr, Chair Professor of Social Theory and Dean of Social Sciences, Lingnan University, Hong Kong and Boston University­­­­­­­­­­­­

“In both content and style, this book lives up to its theme—enchantment. Operating within the frame of critical social theory and steering clear of both conventional religion and the platitudes of New Ageism, Matthew Del Nevo, through an analysis of Proust, Rilke, and Goethe, compellingly makes the case (even to the nonbeliever) for the need of the soul for enchantment as a way to challenge the vicissitudes (disenchantment) of modern corporate capitalism.”

—Warren S. Goldstein, Center for Critical Research on Religion and Harvard University

“I am impressed by Matthew Del Nevo’s integrity as a philosopher and as a writer. His observations are never mundane or humdrum. He writes with a sense of urgency—a call to the better side of our nature in an age where we are coming to be increasingly dominated by the technocrats, not least in the discipline of philosophy. I commend his work to anyone seeking a guide to the human heart and soul, and their various expressions in modern culture.”

—Geoffrey Klempner, Director of the International Society for Philosophers

“Matthew Del Nevo addresses the lack of enchantment—the poverty—of our time by turning us to great works of literature. He weaves culture critical analysis with a revivification of the value of enchantment as soul work.”

—Peter Banki, New York University and School of Humanities and Languages, University of Western Sydney

“What a strange book is that of Matthew Del Nevo!”

—Sophie Jabès

“I would without hesitation recommend this book to friends, health professional colleagues, and students alike. It gives a valuable insight into ‘soul-work,’ which must be a part of any kind of healing. It is both balm and nectar for the soul. Human flourishing needs the insights that this book contains.”

—Catherine Willis, University of Sydney

About the Author

Matthew Del Nevo is a philosopher at the Catholic Institute of Sydney and author of The Valley Way of Soul, The Work of Enchantment (Transaction, 2011), and The Continental Community of Inquiry. His articles have appeared in Literature and Theology, Critical and Creative Thinking, and Australasian Pentecostal Studies.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 178 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers (June 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1412818605
  • ISBN-13: 978-1412818605
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,047,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This slim volume by Australian philosophy professor Matthew Del Nevo offers a sensitive and loving celebration of enchantment, which he defines as "being captivated by the beautiful." A feeling familiar from childhood, enchantment becomes harder to experience as we age, especially against the mundane rapidity of modernity. Paradoxically, the same metastasis of gadgets and entertainment that people the world over begrudge us saps the West's ability to nurture the spirituality that forms the very essence of enchantment.

The book focuses on the life-enriching feeling made possible by a special "receptive ability" that must be nurtured through culture and education. In this sense, a child's sense of wonder provides only a premonition of what a civilized adult who knows great art, music, philosophy, religion, and literature, may experience. The author appeals to artists like Adorno, Proust, Rilke, and Goethe, who are "great because of their uncontested power of initiation" to enchantment, in order to illustrate this profound state of being, which he describes as the ultimate "desire of the soul."

Del Nevo's blending of emotion and reason as equally necessary to achieve a genuine spiritual peace is reminiscent of the beloved C. S. Lewis. Like Lewis, he believes that the human predicament is to be "perplexed"( in the sense famously described by the medieval theologian Moses Maimonides), a condition alleviated by religion and creativity. Man has to learn, somehow, to inhabit two realms of reality: this world and its absence - to both be and not to be. Before Hamlet's dilemma, logic is helpless; paradox calls for faith and beauty.

Or, rather, beauty and faith - in that order. For Del Nevo suggests that each of us can deliberately "work" toward enchantment.
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