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Acts of Faith and Imagination
Theological Patterns in Catholic Fiction
Brent Little
Catholic University of America Press, 2023
Acts of Faith and Imagination wagers that fiction written by Catholic authors assists readers to reflect critically on the question: “what is faith?” To speak of a person’s “faith-life” is to speak of change and development. As a narrative form, literature can illustrate the dynamics of faith, which remains in flux over the course of one’s life. Because human beings must possess faith in something (whether religious or not), it inevitably has a narrative structure—faith ebbs and flows, flourishes and decays, develops and stagnates. Through an exploration of more than a dozen Catholic authors’ novels and short stories, Brent Little argues that Catholic fiction encourages the reader to reflect upon their faith holistically, that is, the way faith informs one’s affections, and how a person conceives and interacts with the world as embodied beings. Amidst the diverse stories of modern and contemporary fiction, a consistent pattern emerges: Catholic fiction portrays faith—at its most fundamental, often unconscious, level—as an act of the imagination. Faith is the way one imagines themselves, others, and creation. A person’s primary faith conditions how they live in the world, regardless of the level of conscious reflection, and regardless of whether this is a “religious” faith. Acts of Faith and Imagination investigates the creative depth and vitality of the Catholic literary imagination by bringing late modern Catholic authors into dialogue with more contemporary ones. Readers will then consider well-known works, such as those by Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, and Muriel Spark in the fresh light of contemporary stories by Toni Morrison, Alice McDermott, Uwem Akpan, and several others.
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Between Human and Divine
The Catholic Vision in Contemporary Literature
Mary Reichardt
Catholic University of America Press, 2010
Between Human and Divine is the first collection of scholarly essays published on a wide variety of contemporary (post 1980) Catholic literary works and artists. Its aim is to introduce readers to recent and emerging writers and texts in the tradition.
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Christian Origins and the Language of the Kingdom of God
Michael L. Humphries. Foreword by Burton L. Mack
Southern Illinois University Press, 1999

Traditionally, scholars have traced the origin of Christianity to a single source—the kingdom of God as represented in the message of the historical Jesus. Through a rhetorical critical analysis of one of the most important texts in early Christian literature (the Beelzebul controversy), Michael L. Humphries addresses the issue of Christian origins, demonstrating how the language of the kingdom of God is best understood according to its locative or taxonomic effect where the demarcation of social and cultural boundaries contributes to the emergence of this new social foundation.

The Beelzebul controversy exists in two versions— Q and Mark—and thereby allows the study to engage the import of the kingdom language at the point of juxtaposition between two distinct textual representations. This makes it possible to deal directly with the issue of the disparity of texts in the synoptic tradition. Humphries suggests that these two versions of the same controversy indicate two distinct social trajectories wherein the kingdom of God comes to mean something quite different in each case but that nevertheless they demonstrate a similarity in theoretical effect where the language contributes to the emergence of relatively distinct social formations.

Humphries establishes the Q and Markan versions of the Beelzebul controversy as relatively sophisticated compositions that are formally identified as elaborate chreiai (a literary form used in the teaching of rhetoric at the secondary and post-secondary level of GrecoRoman education) and that offer an excellent example of the rhetorical manipulation of language in the development of social and cultural identity.

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Christianity and Comics
Stories We Tell about Heaven and Hell
Blair Davis
Rutgers University Press, 2024
The Bible has inspired Western art and literature for centuries, so it is no surprise that Christian iconography, characters, and stories have also appeared in many comic books. Yet the sheer stylistic range of these comics is stunning. They include books from Christian publishers, as well as underground comix with religious themes and a vast array of DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse titles, from Hellboy to Preacher.   
 
Christianity and Comics presents an 80-year history of the various ways that the comics industry has drawn from biblical source material. It explores how some publishers specifically targeted Christian audiences with titles like Catholic Comics, books featuring heroic versions of Oral Roberts and Billy Graham, and special religious-themed editions of Archie. But it also considers how popular mainstream comics like Daredevil, The SandmanGhost Rider, and Batman are infused with Christian themes and imagery. 
 
Comics scholar Blair Davis pays special attention to how the medium’s unique use of panels, word balloons, captions, and serialized storytelling have provided vehicles for telling familiar biblical tales in new ways. Spanning the Golden Age of comics to the present day, this book charts how comics have both reflected and influenced Americans’ changing attitudes towards religion.
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Christ's Subversive Body
Practices of Religious Rhetoric in Culture and Politics
Olga V. Solovieva; Foreword by Haun Saussy
Northwestern University Press, 2018
Christ's Subversive Body offers a fascinating exploration of six historical examples of politically or culturally subversive usages of the body of Christ. Shining a light on the enabling potential of religious rhetoric, Solovieva examines how in moments of crisis or transition throughout Western history the body of Christ has been deployed in a variety of discourses, including recent neo- and theoconservative movements in the United States.

Solovieva’s survey includes the iconoclastic polemics of Epiphanius at the moment of struggles for supremacy between the Roman state and the Christian church, the mystical theologico-political alchemy of an anonymous treatise circulated at the Council of Constance, Lavater’s counter-Enlightenment visions of the afterlife expressd through physiognomy, Dostoevsky’s refashioning of ethical communities, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s attempts to provoke the “scandal” of Jesus’s mission once more in the modern world, and the elaboration of a political theology subordinating democratic dissent to the higher unity of a corporately conceived “unitary executive” in early twenty-first-century America.

Solovieva presents her findings not as an entry into theological or Christological debates but rather as a study in comparative discourse analysis. She demonstrates how these uses of Christ’s body are triggered by moments of epistemological, political, and representational crisis in the history of Western civilization.
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Comic Faith
The Great Tradition from Austen to Joyce
Robert M. Polhemus
University of Chicago Press, 1980
"Polhemus sketches several distinctions between nineteenth- and twentieth-century novelists and concludes that what most characterizes the nineteenth century, from the perspective of the twentieth, is the tendency in its comic fiction to criticize and to undermine the dogma and institutions of religion and to put faith instead of the existence of the comic perspective. Comic Faith is a virtuoso performance of impressive stature; I suspect the book will be influential for many years to come."—John Halperin, Modern Fiction Studies
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The Complete Short Stories, Volume 1
Enid Dinnis
Catholic University of America Press, 2023
Gathered here for the first time are the stories of Enid Dinnis, who lived and wrote in London throughout the first half of the 20th century. Enid Dinnis moved widely in the London literary world but she was also Mother Superior of a ‘hidden’ religious order, The Daughters of the Heart of Mary. Few in London’s literary scene knew that Dinnis was a nun but she lived most of her life in a small convent in Wimbledon with other well-known figures from the period, including Maud Petre. Dinnis wrote Catholic stories for readers of all ages. She is one of the finest lost authors of the Catholic Literary Revival. Dinnis’s intervention in the short story genre is considerable. She weaves together fairy tale, myth, Catholic mysticism, epiphanic dialogue and everyday characterization to produce stories that are both simple and complex, both light-hearted and profound. Always concerned with ‘the wonderful resourcefulness of the love of God’, her stories proclaim the presence and workings of divine grace in the everyday lives of all people—old and young, sceptics and seekers, farmers and priests. Dinnis’s stories show that God’s love is the answer to all human struggles and quests. They illustrate what it means to receive love – human and divine – and to pass it on. Her work is filled with visions and confessions, miracles and conversions – but it is never overly pious or saccharine. Her characters are real people experiencing the truths proclaimed by the Catholic faith, which is always as marvelous as it is every-day. Enid Dinnis’s stories reenchant the post-enlightenment world along Catholic lines. Her stories put the supernatural firmly back into the world in a way more needed than ever.
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The Coptic Psalter in the Freer Collection
Edited by William H. Worrell
University of Michigan Press, 1916
A collection of manuscripts from the New Testament Manuscripts from the Charles Freer Collection, including explanations and analyses from the experts in their field at the time.
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The Cross
History, Art, and Controversy
Robin M. Jensen
Harvard University Press, 2017

The cross stirs intense feelings among Christians as well as non-Christians. Robin Jensen takes readers on an intellectual and spiritual journey through the two-thousand-year evolution of the cross as an idea and an artifact, illuminating the controversies—along with the forms of devotion—this central symbol of Christianity inspires.

Jesus’s death on the cross posed a dilemma for Saint Paul and the early Church fathers. Crucifixion was a humiliating form of execution reserved for slaves and criminals. How could their messiah and savior have been subjected to such an ignominious death? Wrestling with this paradox, they reimagined the cross as a triumphant expression of Christ’s sacrificial love and miraculous resurrection. Over time, the symbol’s transformation raised myriad doctrinal questions, particularly about the crucifix—the cross with the figure of Christ—and whether it should emphasize Jesus’s suffering or his glorification. How should Jesus’s body be depicted: alive or dead, naked or dressed? Should it be shown at all?

Jensen’s wide-ranging study focuses on the cross in painting and literature, the quest for the “true cross” in Jerusalem, and the symbol’s role in conflicts from the Crusades to wars of colonial conquest. The Cross also reveals how Jews and Muslims viewed the most sacred of all Christian emblems and explains its role in public life in the West today.

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Dante’s Volume from Alpha to Omega
Edited by Christiana Purdy Moudarres and Carol Chiodo
Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2020
Dante’s Volume from Alpha to Omega brings together essays written by internationally recognized scholars to explore the poet’s encyclopedic impulse in light of our own frenzied information age. This comprehensive collection of essays, coedited by Carol Chiodo and Christiana Purdy Moudarres, examines how Dante’s spiritual quest is powered by an encyclopedic one, which has for more than seven centuries drawn a readership as diverse as the knowledge his work contains. The essays investigate both the intellectual and spiritual pleasures that Dante’s Commedia affords, underscoring how, through the sheer breadth of its knowledge, the poem demands collective and collaborative inquiry. Rather than isolating the poetic or theological strands of the Commedia, the book acts as a bridge across disciplines, braiding together the well-worn strands of poetry and theology with those of philosophy, the sciences, and the arts. The wide range of entries within Dante’s poetic summa yield multiple opportunities to reflect on their points of intersection, and the urgency of the convergence of the poem’s aesthetic, intellectual, and affective aims. 
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Devotion
Three Inquiries in Religion, Literature, and Political Imagination
Constance M. Furey, Sarah Hammerschlag, and Amy Hollywood
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Three scholars of religion explore literature and the literary as sites of critical transformation.

We are living in a time of radical uncertainty, faced with serious political, ecological, economic, epidemiological, and social problems. Scholars of religion Constance M. Furey, Sarah Hammerschlag, and Amy Hollywood come together in this volume with a shared conviction that what and how we read opens new ways of imagining our political futures and our lives.

Each essay in this book suggests different ways to characterize the object of devotion and the stance of the devout subject before it. Furey writes about devotion in terms of vivification, energy, and artifice; Hammerschlag in terms of commentary, mimicry, and fetishism; and Hollywood in terms of anarchy, antinomianism, and atopia. They are interested in literature not as providing models for ethical, political, or religious life, but as creating the site in which the possible—and the impossible—transport the reader, enabling new forms of thought, habits of mind, and ways of life. Ranging from German theologian Martin Luther to French-Jewish philosopher Sarah Kofman to American poet Susan Howe, this volume is not just a reflection on forms of devotion and their critical and creative import but also a powerful enactment of devotion itself.
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Dialoguing in Late Antiquity
Averil Cameron
Harvard University Press

Christians talked, debated, and wrote dialogues in late antiquity and on throughout Byzantium. Some were philosophical, others more literary, theological, or Platonic; Aristotle also came into the picture as time went on. Sometimes the written works claim to be records of actual public debates, and we know that many such debates did take place and continued to do so. Dialoguing in Late Antiquity takes up a challenge laid down by recent scholars who argue that a wall of silence came down in the fifth century AD, after which Christians did not “dialogue.”

Averil Cameron now returns to questions raised in her book Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire (1991), drawing on the large repertoire of surviving Christian dialogue texts from late antiquity to make a forceful case for their centrality in Greek literature from the second century and the Second Sophistic onward. At the same time, Dialoguing in Late Antiquity points forward to the long and neglected history of dialogue in Byzantium. Throughout this study, Cameron engages with current literary approaches and is a powerful advocate for the greater integration of Christian texts by literary scholars and historians alike.

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The Dry Wood
Caryll Houselander
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
In the English-speaking world, the Catholic Literary Revival is typically associated with the work of G. K. Chesterton/Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. But in fact the Revival’s most numerous members were women. While some of these women remain well known⎯Muriel Spark, Antonia White, Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day - many have been almost entirely forgotten. They include: Enid Dinnis, Anna Hanson Dorsey, Alice Thomas Ellis, Eleanor Farjeon, Rumer Godden, Caroline Gordon, Clotilde Graves, Caryll Houselander, Sheila Kaye-Smith, Jane Lane, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Alice Meynell, Kathleen Raine, Pearl Mary Teresa Richards, Edith Sitwell, Gladys Bronwyn Stern, Josephine Ward, and Maisie Ward. There are various reasons why each of these writers fell out of print: changes in the commercial publishing world after World War II, changes within the Church itself and in the English-speaking universities that redefined the literary canon in the last decades of the 20th century. Yet it remains puzzling that a body of writing so creative, so attuned to its historical moment, and so unique in its perspective on the human condition, should have fallen into obscurity for so long. The Catholic Women Writers series brings together the English-language prose works of Catholic women from the 19th and 20th centuries; work that is of interest to a broad range of readers. Each volume is printed with an accessible but scholarly introduction by theologians and literary specialists. The first volume in the series is Caryll Houselander’s The Dry Wood. Houselander is known primarily for her spiritual writings but she also wrote one novel, set in a post-war London Docklands parish. There a motley group of lost souls are mourning the death of their saintly priest and hoping for the miraculous healing of a vulnerable child whose gentleness in the face of suffering brings conversion to them all in surprising and unexpected ways. The Dry Wood offers a vital contribution to the modern literary canon and a profound meditation on the purpose of human suffering.
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Early Christians and Their Art
Mikeal C. Parsons
SBL Press, 2023
This collection of eleven essays by biblical scholars, art historians, and experts in early Christianity explores a variety of topics and issues regarding the material culture of early Christianity recovered from Italy, Syria, Tunisia, and beyond. The essays place early Christian art representing such symbols as crosses, anchors, and shepherds found in sarcophagi, catacombs, architecture, mosaics, gems, and more in dialogue with New Testament and early Christian texts. Contributors Gregory M. Barnhill, Eric J. Brewer, Jeffrey M. Dale,† Zen Hess, Heidi J. Hornik, Jeffrey M. Hubbard, Robin M. Jensen, Bruce W. Longenecker, Mikeal Parsons, Christian Sanchez, Natalie Webb, Jason A. Whitlark, and David E. Wilhite place early Christian beliefs and practices in their proper historical, cultural, political, and religious contexts for scholars and students of the ancient world.
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The Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien
Mythopeia and the Recovery of Creation
Robert J. Dobie, Robert J.
Catholic University of America Press, 2024

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Fiction And Incarnation
Rhetoric, Theology, and Literature in the Middle Ages
Alexandre Leupin
University of Minnesota Press, 2002

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Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens
J. Vanessa Lyon
Amsterdam University Press, 2020
Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens argues that the Baroque painter, propagandist, and diplomat, Peter Paul Rubens, was not only aware of rapidly shifting religious and cultural attitudes toward women, but actively engaged in shaping them. Today, Rubens’s paintings continue to be used -- and abused -- to prescribe and proscribe certain forms of femininity. Repositioning some of the artist’s best-known works within seventeenth-century Catholic theology and female court culture, this book provides a feminist corrective to a body of art historical scholarship in which studies of gender and religion are often mutually exclusive. Moving chronologically through Rubens’s lengthy career, the author shows that, in relation to the powerful women in his life, Rubens figured the female form as a transhistorical carrier of meaning whose devotional and rhetorical efficacy was heightened rather than diminished by notions of female difference and particularity.
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Franciscan Books and their Readers
Friars and Manuscripts in Late Medieval Italy
René Hernández
Amsterdam University Press, 2022
The book explores the manuscripts written, read, and studied by Franciscan friars from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries in Northern Italy, and specifically Padua, assessing four key aspects: ideal, space, form and readership. The ideal is studied through the regulations that determined what manuscripts should aim for. Space refers to the development and role of Franciscan libraries. The form is revealed by the assessment of the physical configuration of a set of representative manuscripts read, written, and manufactured by the friars. Finally, the study of the readership shows how Franciscans were skilled readers who employed certain forms of the manuscript as a portable, personal library, and as a tool for learning and pastoral care. By comparing the book collections of Padua’s reformed and unreformed medieval Franciscan libraries for the first time, this study reveals new features of the ground-breaking cultural agency of medieval friars.
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Handbook for Curates
A Late Medieval Manual on Pastoral Ministry
Guido of Monte Rochen
Catholic University of America Press, 2011
Guido of Monte Rochen's Handbook for Curates became the most popular pastoral manual at the close of the Middle Ages as thousands of copies were printed in Europe.
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Handbook of Japanese Christian Writers
Mark Williams
Amsterdam University Press, 2023
Although a century and a half of Christian proselytizing has only led to the conversion of about one percent of the Japanese population, the proportion of writers who have either been baptized or significantly influenced in their work by Christian teachings is much higher. The seventeen authors examined in this volume have all employed themes and imagery in their writings influenced by Christian teachings. Those writing between the 1880s and the start of World War II were largely drawn to the Protestant emphasis on individual freedom, though many of them eventually rejected sectarian affiliation. Since 1945, on the other hand, Catholicism has produced a number of religiously committed authors, led by figures such as Endo Shusaku, the most popular and influential Christian writer in Japan to date. The authors discussed in these essays have contributed in a variety of ways to the indigenization of the imported religion.
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Hard Sayings
The Rhetoric of Christian Orthodoxy in Late Modern Fiction
Thomas F. Haddox
The Ohio State University Press, 2013
Hard Sayings: The Rhetoric of Christian Orthodoxy in Late Modern Fiction by Thomas F. Haddox examines the work of six avowedly Christian writers of fiction in the period from World War II to the present. This period is often characterized in western societies by such catchphrases as “postmodernism” and “secularization,” with the frequent implication that orthodox belief in the dogmas of Christianity has become untenable among educated readers. How, then, do we account for the continued existence of writers of self-consciously literary fiction who attempt to persuade readers of the truth, desirability, and utility of the dogmas of Christianity? Is it possible to take these writers’ efforts on their own terms and to understand and evaluate the rhetorical strategies that this kind of persuasion might entail?
 
Informed by the school of rhetorical narratology that includes such critics as Wayne Booth, James Phelan, and Richard Walsh, Hard Sayings offers fresh new readings of fictive works by Flannery O’Connor, Muriel Spark, John Updike, Walker Percy, Mary Gordon, and Marilynne Robinson. In its argument that orthodox Christianity, as represented in fiction, still has the power to persuade and to trouble, it contributes to ongoing debates about the nature and scope of modernity, postmodernity, and secularization.
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In the Work of Their Hands Is Their Prayer
Cultural Narrative and Redemption on the American Frontiers, 1830-1930
Joel Daehnke
Ohio University Press, 2003

Westward expansion on the North American continent by European settlers generated a flurry of writings on the frontier experience over the course of a hundred years. Asserting that the dominant ideology of America’s Manifest Destiny embodied a tense, often contradictory union of Christian and secular republican views of social progress, In the Work of Their Hands Is Their Prayer investigates the ambivalence of the frontier as it was inscribed with redemptive, historical significance by a host of frontier writers.

Enlisting canonical and noncanonical sources, Joel Daehnke examines the manner in which the imagery of the human figure at work and play in the frontier landscape participated in the nationalist, “civilizing” project of westward expansion. While he acknowledges the growing secularization of American life, Professor Daehnke surveys the continuing claims of the Christian redemptive scheme as a powerful symbolic domain for these writers’ meditations on social progress and the potential for human perfectibility in the landscapes of the West.

Whether discussing the Edenic imagery of women’s gardens, the advocacy of an ethics of land use, or the affairs of fortune in the mining districts of Nevada, In the Work of Their Hands Is Their Prayer presents an enlightening reexamination of an American ideology of progress and its enduring fascination with mission, Manifest Destiny, and the ends of history.

In the Work of Their Hands Is Their Prayer is a welcome addition to the extended library of critical attention to the ideology, history, and literary traditions of the American frontier.

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Lands of Likeness
For a Poetics of Contemplation
Kevin Hart
University of Chicago Press, 2023
An original and profound exploration of contemplation from philosopher, theologian, and poet Kevin Hart.
 
In Lands of Likeness, Kevin Hart develops a new hermeneutics of contemplation through a meditation on Christian thought and secular philosophy. Drawing on Kant, Schopenhauer, Coleridge, and Husserl, Hart first charts the emergence of contemplation in and beyond the Romantic era. Next, Hart shows this hermeneutic at work in poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and others. Delivered in its original form as the prestigious Gifford Lectures, Lands of Likeness is a revelatory meditation on contemplation for the modern world.
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Loving God's Wildness
The Christian Roots of Ecological Ethics in American Literature
Jeffrey Bilbro
University of Alabama Press, 2015
When the Puritans arrived in the New World to carry out the colonization they saw as divinely mandated, they were confronted by the American wilderness. Part of their theology led them to view the natural environment as “a temple of God” in which they should glorify and serve its creator. The larger prevailing theological view, however, saw this vast continent as “the Devil’s Territories” needing to be conquered and cultivated for God’s Kingdom. These contradictory designations gave rise to an ambivalence regarding the character of this land and humanity’s proper relation to it.
 
Loving God’s Wildness rediscovers the environmental roots of America’s Puritan heritage. In tracing this history, Jeffrey Bilbro demonstrates how the dualistic Christianity that the Puritans brought to America led them to see the land as an empty wilderness that God would turn into a productive source of marketable commodities. Bilbro carefully explores the effect of this dichotomy in the nature writings of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Willa Cather, and Wendell Berry.
 
Thoreau, Muir, Cather, and Berry imaginatively developed the Puritan theological tradition to propose practical, physical means by which humans should live and worship within the natural temple of God’s creation. They reshaped Puritan dualism, each according to the particular needs of his or her own ecological and cultural contexts, into a theology that demands care for the entire created community. While differing in their approaches and respective ecological ethics, the four authors Bilbro examines all share the conviction that God remains active in creation and that humans ought to relinquish their selfish ends to participate in his wild ecology.
 
Loving God’s Wildness fills a critical gap in literary criticism and environmental studies by offering a sustained, detailed argument regarding how Christian theology has had a profound and enduring legacy in shaping the contours of the American ecological imagination. Literary critics, scholars of religion and environmental studies, and thoughtful Christians who are concerned about environmental issues will profit from this engaging new book.
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The Passionate Triangle
Rebecca Zorach
University of Chicago Press, 2011

Triangles abounded in the intellectual culture of early modern Europe—the Christian Trinity was often mapped as a triangle, for instance, and perspective, a characteristic artistic technique, is based on a triangular theory of vision. Renaissance artists, for their part, often used shapes and lines to arrange figures into a triangle on the surface of a painting—a practice modern scholars call triangular composition. But is there secret meaning in the triangular arrangements artists used, or just a pleasing symmetry? What do triangles really tell us about the European Renaissance and its most beguiling works of art?

In this book, Rebecca Zorach takes us on a lively hunt for the triangle’s embedded significance. From the leisure pursuits of Egyptian priests to Jacopo Tintoretto’s love triangles, Zorach explores how the visual and mathematical properties of triangles allowed them to express new ideas and to inspire surprisingly intense passions. Examining prints and paintings as well as literary, scientific, and philosophical texts, The Passionate Triangle opens up an array of new ideas, presenting unexpected stories of the irrational, passionate, melancholic, and often erotic potential of mathematical thinking before the Scientific Revolution.

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Preaching and the Rise of the American Novel
Dawn Coleman
The Ohio State University Press, 2013
Preaching and the Rise of the American Novel by Dawn Coleman recovers a crucial moment in the history of the intimate yet often contentious relationship between religion and literature. Coleman’s book highlights the intersection of two cultural trajectories in America around 1850, both often downplayed in literary histories: a boom in preaching, associated with the growth of evangelicalism and the country’s oratorical traditions, and the long struggle of the novel, still facing considerable disdain at mid-century, to achieve moral legitimacy and aesthetic autonomy.
 
Before the Civil War, the preacher in the pulpit was the culture’s paradigmatic voice of moral authority, and novelists who wished to establish the moral value of their own storytelling needed to incorporate sermons. This book explores how antebellum ministers sought to preach effective, authoritative sermons and how novelists sought to claim a similar authority through canny representations of preachers, often veiled critiques of actual ministers, and sermonic voice, or a creative reworking of the sound of preaching. Such intense engagement with sermons shaped some of the period’s most interesting and important novels, including The Scarlet Letter, The Quaker City, Moby-Dick, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Clotel.
 
In illuminating how novelists sought to displace traditional religious institutions, Preaching and the Rise of the American Novel reminds readers of the deep connections between Americans’ religious practices and their literature and speaks to how the processes of secularization are often less concerned with rejecting the elements of religion than reimagining them.
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Promiscuous Grace
Imagining Beauty and Holiness with Saint Mary of Egypt
Sonia Velázquez
University of Chicago Press, 2023
A meditation on holiness and beauty through the study of Saint Mary of Egypt.
 
Saint Mary of Egypt has fascinated theologians, poets, and artists since the seventh century. Her story is richly evocative, encompassing sin and sanctity, concupiscence and asceticism, youth and old age. In Promiscuous Grace, Sonia Velázquez thinks with Saint Mary of Egypt about the relationship between beauty and holiness. Drawing on an archive spanning Spanish medieval poetry, Baroque paintings, seventeenth-century hagiography, and Balzac’s Le chef-d’œuvre  inconnu, Velázquez argues for the importance of the senses on the surface of religious texts on her way to revealing why the legend of Saint Mary of Egypt still matters today.
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Puritanism and Modernist Novels
From Moral Character to the Ethical Self
Lynne W. Hinojosa
The Ohio State University Press, 2015
In Puritanism and Modernist Novels: From Moral Character to the Ethical Self, Lynne W. Hinojosa complicates traditional interpretations of the novel and literary modernism as secular developments of modernity by arguing that the British novel tradition is fundamentally shaped by Puritan hermeneutics and Bible-reading practices. This tradition, however, simultaneously works to dismantle the categories associated with social morality and moral character, helping to form “Puritanism” into a fictional stereotype. Hinojosa demonstrates that the novel thus perpetuates a narrative that associates Puritanism with moral and religious confinement, on the one hand, and modern longing with escape, on the other—even as it remains tied to Puritan views of history and the self.
 
Puritanism and Modernist Novels offers new formal and contextual readings of early modernist novels by Oscar Wilde, E. M. Forster, James Joyce, and Ford Madox Ford. Hinojosa demonstrates that, while they long for escape, these authors still question the value of the novelistic narrative of confinement and escape. Bridging modernist and novel studies, Puritanism and Modernist Novels contributes to conversations about secularization and religion in both fields, highlighting the limitations created by the secularization narrative of modernity.
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Reading the Underthought
Jewish Hermeneutics and the Christian Poetry of Hopkins and Eliot
Kinereth Meyer
Catholic University of America Press, 2010
Reading the Underthought explores the question of how readers from one tradition can approach the poetry of another
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The Relic
Jose Maria Eca de Queiros
Catholic University of America Press, 2023
The Relic tells the story of an orphaned young man, Teodorico Raposo, who is brought to Lisbon from a provincial town in Portugal to live with his aunt, a rigid, stern—and oftentimes—forbidding Catholic. Her devout circle of acquaintances is made up almost entirely of priests, many of whom are more concerned with appearances than spirituality, and seeking her and their approval, Teodorico is driven to attend Mass, say rosaries, and frequent churches, all the while awakening to sensuality, women, and the material life in conflict with “Auntie’s” devotions, which are—inwardly—devoid of the charity preached by Christ. When Teodorico obtains a degree from the University of Coimbra, Auntie sends him to the Holy Land to search for a relic to cure her ills. He meets up with a learned German author and, after a sojourn to Egypt, the two make their way to the land trod by Jesus. It is there that Teodorico has the dream that takes up nearly one third of the novel: he witnesses the travails that lead to the Passion and Crucifixion, as well as the aftermath of Christ’s death. Faced now with his mission, Teodorico embarks on a search. He soon comes upon an item, a “true” relic authenticated by his German friend, the sanctity of which will send Auntie to the heights of spiritual bliss, so much so that she will make him her heir. But when Teodorico returns to Lisbon with it, deception awaits her as the result of a simple mistake that had been made, and disinheritance awaits him as a result of Auntie’s anger and vindictiveness.
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Southwell's Sphere
The Influence of England's Secret Poet
Gary M. Bouchard
St. Augustine's Press, 2016
Once feared by Queen Elizabeth I and admired by William Shakespeare, Robert Southwell, s.j. (1561–1595), clings today to a thinning canonical presence in English literature among a sphere of other writers incongruously called the metaphysical poets. Southwell’s Sphere lifts this sixteenth century Jesuit priest and prolific writer from the obscurity in which he too often resides and places him instead at the center of a sphere of English poets upon whom his life and works exerted an observable influence. As he weaved his religious content into the familiar loom of Elizabethan form and style, this young missionary priest was seeking not just to catechize those whom he regarded as the faithful and the fallen, but to intentionally reform the verse of his native England. Remarkably, during his brief six-year mission, he actually managed in many respects to do so. Surviving for six years by successfully navigating and fostering a complicated underground Catholic network in and around London before being captured, tortured and imprisoned, Southwell was brought to trial and executed at Tyburn at age 33. He therefore never knew most of the “skillfuller wits” that he called upon to direct their poetic skills to the service of God. And like the marks upon his tortured body, the poetic marks of influence that his work left upon individual writers of this era were in many cases deliberately concealed. Southwell’s Sphere seeks to rediscover those marks and offer the reader a renewed appreciation for this subverted and subverting literary force in Early Modern England. In individual explicative chapters this book examines works by six poets whose verse may be appreciated differently in light of Robert Southwell’s life and work. The author makes the case that Southwell’s works, posthumously and prolifically published, instructed William Alabaster, provoked Edmund Spenser, prompted George Herbert, haunted John Donne, inspired Richard Crashaw and — two and a half centuries later — consoled Gerard Manley Hopkins, s.j. With the exception of Spenser, all of these poets were, like Southwell, ordained ministers. The particular personal, political and religious complexities of each of their lives notwithstanding, what they most shared in common with Southwell was their priestly vocation, their talent as English poets and the inevitable and inextricable joining of these two activities in their lives. While it would have made little sense for any of these poets to acknowledge Southwell as a poetic peer, each of them authored important verse that can best be appreciated within the sphere of this improbably successful and influential English poet.
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Street Scriptures
Between God and Hip-Hop
Alejandro Nava
University of Chicago Press, 2022
This book explores an important aspect of hip-hop that is rarely considered: its deep entanglement with spiritual life.
 
The world of hip-hop is saturated with religion, but rarely is that element given serious consideration. In Street Scriptures, Alejandro Nava focuses our attention on this aspect of the music and culture in a fresh way, combining his profound love of hip-hop, his passion for racial and social justice, and his deep theological knowledge. Street Scriptures offers a refreshingly earnest and beautifully written journey through hip-hop’s deep entanglement with the sacred.
 
Nava reveals a largely unheard religious heartbeat in hip-hop, exploring crosscurrents of the sacred and profane in rap, reggaeton, and Latinx hip-hop today. Ranging from Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Lauryn Hill, Cardi B, and Bad Bunny to St. Augustine and William James, Nava examines the ethical-political, mystical-prophetic, and theological qualities in hip-hop, probing the pure sonic and aesthetic signatures of music, while also diving deep into the voices that invoke the spirit of protest. The result is nothing short of a new liberation theology for our time, what Nava calls a “street theology.”
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A Theology of Sense
John Updike, Embodiment, and Late Twentieth-Century American Literature
Scott Dill
The Ohio State University Press, 2018
Scott Dill’s A Theology of Sense: John Updike, Embodiment, and Late Twentieth-Century American Literature brings together theology, aesthetics, and the body, arguing that Updike, a central figure in post-1945 American literature, deeply embeds in his work questions of the body and the senses with questions of theology. Dill offers new understandings not only of the work of Updike—which is importantly being revisited since the author’s death in 2009—but also new understandings of the relationship between aesthetics, religion, and physical experience.

Dill explores Updike’s unique literary legacy in order to argue for a genuinely postsecular theory of aesthetic experience. Each chapter takes up one of the five senses and its relation to broader theoretical concerns: affect, subjectivity, ontology, ethics, and theology. While placing Updike’s work in relation to other late twentieth-century American writers, Dill explains their notions of embodiment and uses them to render a new account of postsecular aesthetics. No other novelist has portrayed mere sense experience as carefully, as extensively, or as theologically—repeatedly turning to the doctrine of creation as his stylistic justification. Across this examination of his many stories, novels, poems, and essays, Dill proves that Updike forces us to reconsider the power of literature to revitalize sense experience as a theological question.
 
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Tomáš Špidlík
A Theological Life
Karel Sládek
Karolinum Press, 2020
Tomáš Špidlík: A Theological Life offers one of the first comprehensive reflections on the life and work of the enigmatic Czech theologian. In part one, Karel Sládek explores Špidlík’s thoughts on family, the formation of Jesuit priests, the ecumenical mission of the monastery at Velehrad in Moravia (where Špidlík himself studied), and the wisdom he acquired during stays in Rome. The latter part of the book focuses on Špidlík’s spiritual theology, which was grounded in a synthesis of Eastern and Western Christianity. Here, the book explores subjects such as the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist as a source of spiritual life, and the influence of the Philokalia on Eastern spirituality. 
 
By the conclusion, we see Špidlík’s most mature ideas and his forming of a theology of beauty; Špidlík spent his final years in Rome, living and working at the Centro Aletti’s renowned art studio, where he put his mind to observing the theology of art for an understanding of music, film, literature, and iconography.
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Victorian Sacrifice
Ilana M. Blumberg
The Ohio State University Press, 2013
In Victorian Sacrifice: Ethics and Economics in Mid-Century Novels, Ilana Blumberg offers a major reconsideration of the central Victorian ethic of self-sacrifice, suggesting that much of what we have taken to be the moral psychology of Victorian fiction may be understood in terms of the dramatic confrontation between Christian theology and the world of modern economic theory. As Victorian writers Charlotte Mary Yonge, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, and Mary Augusta Ward strove to forge a practicable ethics that would reconcile the influences of an evangelical Christianity and its emphasis on selfless charity with the forces of laissez-faire capitalism and its emphasis on individual profit, they moved away from the cherished ideal of painful, solitary self-sacrifice in service of another’s good. Instead, Blumberg suggests, major novelists sought an ethical realism characterized by the belief that virtuous action could serve the collective benefit of the parties involved. At a mid-century moment of economic optimism, novelists transformed the ethical landscape by imagining what the sociologist Herbert Spencer would later call a “measured egoism,” an ethically responsible self-concern which might foster communal solidarity and material abundance.
 
Bringing the recent literary turns to ethics and to economics into mutual conversation, Blumberg offers us a new lens on a matter as pressing today as 150 years ago: the search for an ethics adequate to the hopes and fears of a new economy.
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The Writer and Religion
Edited by William H. Gass and Lorin Cuoco
Southern Illinois University Press, 2000

“Every significant religious system stands upon a sacred text. This text is indeed its temple. Inside, its heroes and their history are enshrined. Although leaders of varying degrees of divinity are always involved in the creation of a new sect, they usually have short lives, often come to bad ends, and their influence, diluted by disciples, soon disappears as water does in sand. What the leader leaves behind is Mein Kampf or its equivalent: his testament. Occasionally, by the indolent, an existent text is chosen, or a compilation selected—a golden treasury. From time to time, other writings may be dubbed divine, as though knighted. This is not a simple social thing, however. It is more important than a nation adding to its territories. Any addition to the divine canon will approve, proscribe, or admit new thoughts, new practices, and in consequence elevate different people to positions of privilege and power.”—William H. Gass

These essays and panel discussions made up The Writer and Religion Conference held at Washington University in St. Louis. The six essays, all by writers of international stature, were followed by panel discussions, with audience participation.

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