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Locations of the Sacred

Essays on Religion, Literature, and Canadian Culture

William Closson James

Publication Year: 1998

Where do Canadians encounter religious meaning? Not where they used to!

In ten lively and wide-ranging essays, William Closson James examines various derivations of the sacred in contemporary Canadian culture. Most of the essays focus on the religious aspects of modern Canadian English fiction — for example, in essays on the fiction of Hugh MacLennan, Morley Callaghan, Margaret Atwood and Joy Kogawa. But James also explores other, non-literary events and activities in which Canadians have found something transcendant or revelatory.

Each of the chapters in Locations of the Sacred can be read independently as a discrete analysis of its subject. Taken as a whole, the essays make up a powerful argument for a new way of looking at the religious in contemporary Canada — not in the traditional ways of being religious, but in activities and locations previously thought to be “secular.” Thus, the domains and modes of the religious are expanded, not restricted.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-iii


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xiv

DOES THE TITLE, "LOCATIONS OF THE SACRED," mean literally the geographical whereabouts of sacrality, the kind of specificity of site found in photographic books about sacred places...

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pp. xv-xviii

SOME BOOKS, A COLLEAGUE RECENTLY REMARKED, are Solo efforts to such a degree that no extensive acknowledgments of debts or gratitude to other people are given nor are they necessary. Other books are such collaborative affairs—or else their contents...

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pp. 1-17

THE CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING THE STUDY of religion in Canada, from the vantage point of the late 1990s, include the approaching end of a millennium, the uncertain future of Quebec within Canada, and a general weakening of the role of religious...

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CHAPTER 1 Dislocating the Sacred: The Protestant Voice

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pp. 19-38

NOVELIST MATT COHEN, in a lecture given at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo in January 1993, surveyed some of the recent significant changes in Canadian fiction. He summarized for his largely Japanese audience the new pluralistic and international...

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CHAPTER 2 Relocating the Sacred: The Human Ground of Transcendence

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pp. 39-60

IN AN ESSAY FIRST PUBLISHED in 1949 the Scottish poet Edwin Muir proposed that the decay of the religious sense meant the decline of the novel. Muir argued that for novelists of an earlier era "life obediently fell into the mould of a story" because "everybody...

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CHAPTER 3 Nature as the Locale of the Sacred

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pp. 61-80

AN ETERNITY BEYOND THIS WORLD as the paramount location of the sacred has persisted in Western religious thought and popular attitudes alike. As the preceding essay has shown, Edwin Muir claimed that such an eternity, contrasted with temporality...

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CHAPTER 4 In Quest of the Sacred: The Canoe Trip

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pp. 81-100

ONE SUMMER ON A CANOE TRIP, while paddling up the labyrinthine meanderings of a creek in Algonquin Park, our party took a wrong turn and lost the main channel. When the tributary became impassable a stranger who had been silently following...

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CHAPTER 5 Sacred Death: The Belcher Islands Massacre

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pp. 101-130

IN THE WINTER OF 1941 on the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay nine Inuit people died. In the initial stage two Inuit men and a teenaged girl were violently murdered; then, seven weeks later, two women and four boys died of exposure after being driven or led on...

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CHAPTER 6 Theodicy and the Sacred: A. M. Klein and Hugh MacLennan

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pp. 131-153

BEFORE CONSIDERING IN DETAIL how the sacred is dislocated— through the decentring of the Protestant voice in Canadian fiction—by undertaking a close reading of The Watch that Ends the Night, it might be worthwhile to examine the pattern...

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CHAPTER 7 Love and the Sacred: The Ambiguities of Morley Callaghan's Such Is My Beloved

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pp. 155-170

SOMEONE, ALLUDING TO THE TITLE of a book by William Empson, once remarked that in this century there are as many types of ambiguity as there once were deadly sins. And Allan Bloom, in his indictment of American moral relativism in...

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CHAPTER 8 Sacred Passages: Native Symbols in Atwood and Engel

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pp. 171-187

THE OBVIOUS THEMATIC LINKS between Margaret Atwood's Surfacing and Marian Engel's Bear1 have been remarked upon casually though explicitly by Northrop Frye, George Woodcock, and others (Frye 1982, 69; Woodcock, in Staines 1977, 95)....

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CHAPTER 9 Nordicity and the Sacred: The Journeys of Thomas York and Aritha van Herk

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pp. 189-212

TOM YORK'S DEATH IN A CAR ACCIDENT early in January 1988 occurred twenty-five years after his first entry into Canada. Late in December 1962 York, with his wife Lynn, "fled precipitately, and with as little forethought as any fugitive" (York 1978a...

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CHAPTER 10 Mutuality and the Sacred: Joy Kogawa

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pp. 213-239

IN JOY KOGAWA'S FICTIONAL EFFORTS to find the location of the sacred sometimes cultural traditions blend and reinforce each other, while at other times they conflict and clash. From her Japanese-Canadian perspective she affirms and criticizes aspects of...

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pp. 241-243

EVEN IF, AFTER SEARCHING OUT Canadian religion and culture, the locations of the sacred are found to be everywhere and nowhere, multiple rather than single, fluid rather than fixed, ephemeral rather than permanent, or at the margins rather than the...


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pp. 245-264


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pp. 265-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780889207578
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889202931

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 1998