Richard Bishirjian recently wrote an in-depth review of the University of North Georgia Press’ book, The Southern Philosopher: The Collected Essays of John William Corrington. This text was edited by Allen Mendenhall in an effort to help encapsulate Corrington’s accomplishments as both an academic and a philosopher. Much like Mendenhall, Bishirjian found Corrington through academia while translating the concepts Corrington had discussed in his writings for his dissertation. This launched a twelve-year friendship between Bishirjian and Corrington, corresponding through letters before Corrington’s death in 1988. During that time, they corresponded through letters and developed a close relationship. Many of their letters can be found in The Southern Philosopher. The two discussed many of the concepts presented in the book and even held a seminar together about one of the key themes of Corrington’s work: Gnosticism.
Gnosticism was not the only interest Corrington had. After multiple years of teaching at Loyola University, Corrington pursued law at Tulane University. From there, he learned about the writings of Eric Voegelin, a southern philosopher himself who discusses the religious community of the South. Corrington thought of Voegelin as the one who truly hit the nail on the head on how to examine the shared experiences of religious sects in the South. Through their joint work, Corrington was able to research and better conceptualize the ideas that he had been pondering.
Corrington was also known as a rebel in whatever environment he placed himself in, whether that be as an academic or as a writer. Many of those communities had differing ideals than Corrington, as he wanted to be free of petty academic politics and the narrow-mindedness of other southern literary critics. Through the works of Voegelin and others, Corrington founda philosophy in politics, historical consciousness, and modern Gnosticism that was free of the confinement that his colleagues developed for themselves.
Through all of these complex concepts, Richard Bishirjian weaves an interesting look into some of the concepts that can be found in Corrington’s collections. Corrington said it best: “What my work really represents is the openness, the ambiguity, the vastness of the possibilities of human being in the mode of existence as it realizes itself in the South in my time.” You can find all of this and more as you delve into Bishirijian’s review and The Southern Philosopher.