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Literature and Spirituality in the English-Speaking World


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 Spiritual Power of Toni Morrison’s Fiction: Mirjana Danicic


Mirjana DANICICUniversity of Belgrade, Serbia

An array of definitions of the word “spirituality” has been offered by various scientists and little consensus has been reached in spite of the overall agreement that spirituality involves multiple dimensions – social, cultural, psychological, behavioural, existential, etc. In Varieties of Religious Experience, William James defined spirituality as the “feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider divine” (42, my emphasis). The dynamic nature of spirituality is described in the italicised expression: spiritual feelings, acts, thoughts, and experiences relate to the development and existence of an individual, giving meaning to all the ambiguities of life. James’s definition was at the origin of the so-called “relational spirituality” which stands in opposition to cognitive behavioural models in psychology. The cognitive school of thought considers that individuals are not defined by, and do not only relate to, the sacred, but also to the profane, indicating that sacred and profane form a dialectic in human experience (Shults and Sandage 161).

Nevertheless, a relational view of spirituality can facilitate the understanding of spirituality and interpersonal relationships, since the ways in which individuals relate to the sacred can impact the ways in which they relate to others and to their community (for better or for worse). Likewise, relationships within a community can shape our representation of the sacred, as well as our spiritual formation. Additionally, a relational approach to spirituality integrates...

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