Wonder Strikes

Approaching Aesthetics and Literature with William Desmond

By Steven E. Knepper
Foreword by William Desmond

Subjects: Philosophy, Aesthetics, Literature, Religion
Hardcover : 9781438489551, 293 pages, July 2022
Expected to ship: 2022-07-01

Table of contents

Foreword by William Desmond


Part I: Incarnate Wonder

1. Aesthetics in Flesh, Image, and Word

2. The Call of Beauty
Call and Response
Between Beauty and the Sublime
Will Beauty Save the World?

3. The Artist and the Between
Between Imitation and Creation
Between Inspiration and Skill
Between Tradition and the Individual Talent

4. Sacred Aesthetics
The Sacred in a Time of Serviceable Disposability
God's Grandeur
Poetry, Prayer, and the Unsayable
Asking Too Much, Asking Too Little

Part II: Reading in the Between

5. Epiphanic Encounters
Criticism in the Metaxu
From Recognition to Epiphany
Epiphanic Things
The Poetry of Place

6. Tragic Howls and Being at a Loss
Macbeth, the Sleepless Tyrant
Lear, the Sleepwalking Sovereign
Philosophy at a Loss

7. Redemptive Laughs and Festive Rebirth
Laughter and Affirmation
Ahab's Absent Laugh
Can Philosophy Laugh at Itself?
The Festive in a Time of Need
Scrooge and Festive Anamnesis


Name Index

The first book-length examination of the prominent contemporary philosopher William Desmond's approach to aesthetics, art, and literature.


William Desmond argues that philosophy, religion, and art begin in wonder. Desmond is widely recognized for his original metaphysics and his provocative philosophy of religion. Desmond's extensive writings on aesthetics, art, and literature, however, have received much less attention. Wonder Strikes is the first book-length examination of these dimensions of Desmond's thought. It offers nuanced commentary on his treatment of beauty and the sublime; his accounts of tragedy and comedy; and his argument that, having asked "too much" of art in modernity, we now ask "too little." Desmond claims that art, philosophy, and religion must recover their ancient kinship and their shared roots in wonder if they are to counter the destructive instrumentalism of our time.

Steven E. Knepper is Associate Professor in the Department of English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies at the Virginia Military Institute.


"Wonder Strikes would serve very well as an overall introduction to my work, as well as a particular illumination of its aesthetic concerns, and all through the elegant writing of a thinker whose attentive mind and searching grasp add to the exploration their own eloquent thoughtfulness. I would recommend the work as an excellent introduction in those terms, and yet it has its own singular register, which comes across through its special focus on aesthetic concerns." — William Desmond, from the foreword

"Knepper has written a beautifully crafted study of the work of William Desmond, particularly the thread within the distinguished Irish philosopher's work concerned with how and why philosophy relates to art and religion and how it is impoverished without having constructive relations with them, even if it is not determined by either. Wonder Strikes is not only informative and judicious in its selections of topics in Desmond and apt in quotation, it is throughout a pleasure to read." — Cyril O'Regan, University of Notre Dame