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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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“God is a cluster of neurons”: Spirituality and Gene Manipulation in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake: Françoise Couturier-Storey and Jeff Storey


Françoise COUTURIER-STOREY and Jeff STOREYUniversity of Nice–Sophia Antipolis, France

In a 2005 BBC television interview with Bill Moyers, internationally acclaimed author Margaret Atwood was questioned regarding her views on religion and spirituality. She defined herself as having been educated as a “strict agnostic.”1 As such, she said that the real question to ask was not so much “does God exist?” but “what do we do with our belief system, how do we use our belief system in order to contribute to the world?” (Moyers). Atwood postulates that, although the invisible, the soul, God, cannot be scientifically proven, they appeal to our human nature. Research in anthropology has not demonstrated the existence of God, she adds, but has proven that one of the great differences between humans and animals is our intrinsic desire to place ourselves in a story that has a meaning, which answers such questions as “Where do we come from?” and “What is there after?” Telling a story, creating a coherent myth in which we want to believe, is an essential human need and this story, to use her own words, is more “interesting” when God is a component. We “prefer the story with the soul” to the one without (Moyers). This desire is also intimately linked to the way our human societies function, as creating a belief system based on common values also reflects our need for rules and restrictions (Moyers).

At one point in the interview, Moyers asks Atwood...

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