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Literature and Spirituality in the English-Speaking World


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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Spirituality and Politics? Spiritual Models of Culture and Methods of World-making in Postmodern Utopian Texts: Miriam Wallraven


Miriam WALLRAVENEberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany


In the second half of the 20th century, in an apparently secular age, the separation of religion and politics has been a central principle in the Western world, ever perceived as threatened by a growing fundamentalism that aims at reinstating the primacy of religion over politics as governing principle of society and culture. At the same time, and despite claims to a secularisation resulting from the end of master narratives, spirituality – conceived as the personal experience of the numinous independent from institutionalised religion – has been on the rise in culture and in literature. Mainly dealing with postmodern American fiction, John McClure justly observes that spiritual texts “make room in the worlds they project for magic, miracles, metaphysical systems of retribution and restoration […] that their political analyses and prescriptions are intermittently but powerfully framed in terms of magical or religious conceptions of power” (143). I want to show that matters of spirituality, in their complex intersections with politics and gender, are negotiated in postmodern utopian fiction; however, academia has not focused on these intersections yet.

Hence, if utopia is seen as “no place” (outopia) or “good place” (eutopia) and traditionally as a space for ideal but non-existing political models of state, as well as a space for negotiating belief systems, the analysis of late 20th-century utopian texts sheds light on different possibilities of the relationship between spirituality and politics, countering our dominant political and spiritual paradigms....

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