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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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The Spirit of the Letter: American Literature and the Quest for Kerygmatic Power: Claude Le Fustec

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Claude LE FUSTECUniversity of Rennes II, France

After over 40 years of influential critical writing, Northrop Frye writes in his introduction to Words with Power, his last but one book of criticism and last publication in his lifetime:1

This book continues the study begun in a book published some years ago called The Great Code, subtitled “The Bible and Literature.” The significance of the “and” was that I was not attempting to isolate the literary features of the Bible, or deal with “The Bible as Literature.” […] I wanted to suggest how the structure of the Bible, as revealed by its narrative and imagery, was related to the conventions and genres of Western literature. […] The present book puts more emphasis on critical theory, and tries to re-examine the Bible on a level that makes its connection with the literary tradition more comprehensible. (WP xi-xiii)

Approaching literature as a student of philosophy and theology but also as an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada, Northrop Frye puts forward a rather unique literary theory in that his project is confined neither to a literary analysis of the Bible nor to a theological approach to literature. In true interdisciplinary fashion, he culls from both theology and literary criticism to expose what he terms “the great code” of western literature, an expression borrowed from Blake to refer to the “principle that the organizing structures of the Bible and the corresponding structures of ‘secular’ literature reflect each...

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