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Literature and Spirituality in the English-Speaking World

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Edited By Kathie Birat and Brigitte Zaugg

This collection of essays focuses on the role of spirituality in American literature through an examination of the multiple ways in which a deep engagement with the spiritual has shaped and affected literature in the Americas (three of the essays involve Canadian and Caribbean literature). The essays in the first section explore the intimate links between the spiritual and the social as they are manifested in forms of fiction like fantasy, science fiction, and the Christian fundamentalist fiction of Jerry B. Jenkins. The second section looks at the ways in which poetry has allowed writers as diverse as Emily Dickinson, Ellen Glasgow, Fanny Howe and Leonard Cohen to use language as a tool for exploring their complex relation to the spiritual seen in terms of radical otherness, or of exile, or of the search for common ground as human beings. The final section approaches spirituality as a defining element of the American experience, from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Toni Morrison and Paul Auster.
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Mokhtar Ben Barka, “Left Behind as an Example of the Intersection between Fiction and Fundamentalist Christianity”

Left Behind (1995-2007) is a series of thirteen novels grounded in fundamentalist visions of the end of times and the Second Coming of Christ. Written by fundamentalist preacher Tim LaHaye and evangelical novelist Jerry Jenkins, the narrative traces the last seven years of life on earth (called “tribulation”), and more particularly, the terrible events leading up to Armageddon and Christ’s return. It begins with the mysterious disappearance (or “Rapture”) of millions of fervent Bible-believing Christians. During the seven-year “tribulation,” the world suffers plagues and famine. A dictator, the Antichrist, emerges as world leader and tortures and kills those who oppose him. At last, Christ comes again, defeats the Antichrist, and reigns over the earth.

This paper seeks to show how the Left Behind novels combine literature, fundamentalist theology – premillennial eschatology, more specifically –, and politics.

Kathie Birat, “Syncretism and Spirituality in the Literature of the English-Speaking Caribbean: Erna Brodber’s Myal”

This article explores the Jamaican novelist Erna Brodber’s Myal in the light of the complex religious history of the Caribbean islands and the syncretism which characterizes its religious practices. The novel is seen as an attempt to give narrative form to the collective experience of religious syncretism while avoiding the temptation to oversimplify by viewing religion in purely anthropological terms. By paying close attention to Brodber’s narrative strategies, in particular her use of focalization and free indirect...

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