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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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Left Behind as an Example of the Intersection between Fiction and Fundamentalist Christianity: Mokhtar Ben Barka

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Mokhtar BEN BARKAUniversity of Valenciennes, France

Written by fundamentalist preacher Tim LaHaye and evangelical novelist Jerry B. Jenkins, 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.1 This “hybrid evangelical prophecy/science-fiction/fantasy series of novels” (Shuck 107) describes the “Rapture” of Christians prior to the Apocalypse, the rise of the Antichrist, and the final battle of Armageddon, all of which figure prominently in Christian apocalyptic theory. LaHaye and Jenkins’s narrative is not simply a fictional text based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible, it also contains a clearly right-leaning political message. It more specifically marries the authors’ evangelical religious commitments to a political agenda that combines traditional social conservatism and a strongly developed interest in contemporary Middle East politics, in which Israel is central to the unfolding of God’s plan for the end of times. Not surprisingly, as Melani McAlister has observed, “since September 11, the power of Left Behind as a major cultural phenomenon has an undeniable link with the resurgence of pro-Israel activism on the Christian Right and the extraordinary dangerous directions taken by the U.S. ‘war on terrorism’ in the Middle East” (2003b: 776).

The Left Behind series has become a publishing phenomenon, surprising its publishers, its authors, scholars, and industry analysts. Published ← 61 | 62 → by Tyndale House of Wheaton, Illinois, the novels have sold more than 62 million copies. Since the first volume appeared in 1995, each...

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