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Conspicuous Bodies

Provincial Belief and the Making of Joyce and Rushdie

Jean Kane

Publication Year: 2014

In Conspicuous Bodies: Provincial Belief and the Making of Joyce and Rushdie, Jean Kane re-examines the literature of James Joyce and Salman Rushdie from a post-secularist perspective, arguing that their respective religions hold critical importance in their works. Though Joyce and Rushdie were initially received as cosmopolitans, both authors subsequently reframed their public images and aligned themselves instead with a provincial religious identity, which emphasized the interconnections between religious devotion and embodiment. At the same time, both Joyce and Rushdie managed to resist the doctrinal content of their religions. Conspicuous Bodies presents Joyce as a founder and Rushdie as an inheritor of a distinctive discourse of belief about the importance of physical bodies and knowledge in religious practice. In doing so, it moves the reception of Joyce and Rushdie away from what previous critics have emphasized—away from questions of aesthetics and from a narrow understanding of belief—and instead questions the assumption that belief should be segregated from matters of physicality and knowledge. Kane reintroduces the concept of spiritual embodiment in order to expand our understanding of what counts as spiritual agency in non-western and minority literatures.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies


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Series Page, Title Page, Copyright Page, Deication

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Writing feels like a solitary, concentrated enterprise, but is actually a noisy conversation conducted over many years. The work of imaginative writers and their interpreters joined with teachers, mentors, and colleagues in the making of this book. C. Clifford Flanigan, of the Comparative Literature Department of Indiana University, plunged me into...

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pp. 1-7

In a 2009 story on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, psychotherapist Jim Cates spoke about treating Amish adolescents. Cates adapted his techniques to help youth whose identity formation differs “fundamentally” from that of his typical clients, who strive for independence based on their accomplishments. “What [Amish youth] are going to do is some kind of manual labor, which doesn’t really identify who they are; it’s just something...

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1. Joyce's Conversion and the Counterdiscipline of Drink

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pp. 8-40

“While religion remains largely the incarnation of an atemporal notion or indestructible essence, it is, more prosaically put, only the result of a discriminatory act performed in the West and there alone,” Daniel Dubuisson contends.1 The philosopher radically dismantles “religion” as an autonomous sphere of experience and a universal domain of knowledge, locating its roots in classical concepts revised by Paul and Augustine. I...

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2. The Canonization of Salman Rushdie: Mythic Midnight's Children and Hindu-Muslim Embodiment

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pp. 41-68

Like Dubliners, Midnight’s Children uses nativist illness to reimagine a national-spiritual body as the basis of a minority personhood. But while Joyce, through his narrative point of view, detaches from “the” Irish- Catholic subject, Rushdie incorporates himself into an absorptive and fissiparous Hindu-Muslim subcontinent. If Joyce aimed to show his cosmopolitan credentials by scrutinizing the Irish-Catholic body from an outsider vantage,...

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3. Spirits Discipline Ulysses

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pp. 69-96

Ulysses has been made to stand for many myths in its career of almost a century. Perhaps more forcibly than any other modernist work, it established the terms of opposition between art and religion, generated from the doctrine and practice of late nineteenth-century Catholicism. Not only the text, but also its own reception, secured this binary as a central axiom of literary modernism and its anthropological premises. I turn to the text ...

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4. Muslim Simulation and the Limits of the "Star Text"

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pp. 97-119

“ ‘To be born again . . . first you have to die. Ho ji! Ho ji!’” sings Gibreel Farishta at the opening of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Gibreel launches into his exuberant ghazal as he and Saladin Chamcha “tumbl[e] from the heavens” down to their reincarnation as the Muslim aliens of the British imaginary—the one a horned goat, the other a deranged zealot.1 Like Ulysses, The Satanic Verses employs a gothic journey through degenerate...

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5. Embodied Panic: Modernist "Religion" in the Controversies over Ulysses and The Satanic Verses

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pp. 120-140

The Satanic Verses controversy of 1989 provoked an unusual literary interest in contemporary religious belief. Scholars and writers, like the Western popular press, understood the conflict as an allegory of freedom and repression, waged by the figures of art and religion. In using these terms to characterize the dispute, critics resumed an argument little changed since the scandalous debut of...

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6. The Religion of Celebrity

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pp. 141-158

Popular celebrity relieved James Joyce and Salman Rushdie of the burden of representing the minority religious body as a provincial one, coincident with a particular geographic location. With the onset of international fame for Joyce and truly global notoriety for Rushdie, the authors themselves became signifiers of the energies of disciplinary religious praxis and their operation in the public realm. These belong to what Jaffe calls the...


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pp. 159-183


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pp. 184-200


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pp. 201-210

Other Titles in the Series

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pp. 211-211

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814273180
E-ISBN-10: 0814273181
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212608
Print-ISBN-10: 0814212603

Page Count: 319
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Lori Branch See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 885128054
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Conspicuous Bodies

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Subject Headings

  • Joyce, James, 1882-1941 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Joyce, James, 1882-1941 -- Religion.
  • Rushdie, Salman, 1947- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Rushdie, Salman, 1947- -- Religion.
  • Faith in literature.
  • Human body in literature.
  • Human body -- Religious aspects.
  • Identity (Psychology) in literature.
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