Is love nothing more than yearning? What happens when a person is in a relationship with someone he no longer desires? Tripp York, an instructor of religious studies at Elon University, asks such questions in Anesthesia: A Brief Reflection on Contemporary Aesthetics, his first work of fiction and second book published since 2007.
Anesthesia follows the life of a college student over four days as he contemplates the nature of beauty, goodness and truth. Trajan, a philosophy major at an unnamed university and the protagonist in the novella, wrestles most with the concept of love.
What transpires when Trajan meets Anna, a waitress at a local diner, provides the narrative thread for York’s efforts. His overarching goal: “Can you tell a true story through fiction?” The answer, he found, is that you can.
“The whole thing is a critique of that kind of love,” said York, whose research interests include contemporary theology, Christian ethics and martyrdom in the Christian tradition. “It’s not an argument against people falling in love as much as it is and argument against the kind of love people think they’re in.”
Love is a learned concept, York says, but if humans are often taught, as they have been for centuries, that “love” is the consuming passion for another – the stuff of many classic romance stories – than it can never be permanent.
The book is an extension of a project York and his friends submitted a few years ago as part of a Triad film competition. The Burlington, N.C., native also has a passion for theatre and works as assistant technical director for the Paramount Theatre in his hometown.
York received his undergraduate degree in 1998 from Trevecca Nazarene University in Tennessee, where he majored in religious studies and dramatic arts. He soon enrolled at Duke University to study theological ethics, graduating with his master’s degree in 2000.
By 2006, York has completed his doctoral dissertation, “Purpurea Corona: The Politics of Martyrdom,” at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary on the campus of Northwestern University. Purpurea Corona was the foundation of his first book – The Purple Crown: The Politics of Martyrdom – published by Herald Press in late 2007.
He also co-authored Calculated Futures: Theology, Ethics and Economics with D. Stephen Long and Nancey Ruth Fox. Calculated Futures was published by Baylor University Press in 2007 as well.
More books are forthcoming in 2009, including Tails of Subversion, a book for children that tells stories from the perspective of the animal as found in scripture – especially as their activity is often as dissident as the humans in scripture, York said.
“He is one of the most liked professors from students’ perspectives and is a challenging and provocative teacher,” said Jeffrey Pugh, professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies. “He thinks differently than most. He is energetic and engaging and the students respond well to him.
“It is rare you can find an adjunct with his combination of scholarly and pedagogical skills.”