The Novel as Church
Preaching to Readers in Contemporary Fiction
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Baylor University Press
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Half Title Page, About the Series, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Series Introduction
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Although my name stands alone on the title page and work on The Novel as Church has included many solitary hours in the study, I am conscious that writing is not an isolated task; as an act of communication, it is at heart a communal exercise. I am aware, therefore, of my indebtedness to the implicit and actual...
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The fictional preacher appears in novels in many guises. A study of preachers in English fiction of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries shows how fictional preachers have shaped contemporary readers’ understanding of Christianity. Their sermons, as foregrounded authoritative performed texts...
1. Sounding the Depths of Dissonance
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The cultural dissonance of sermons in contemporary fiction finds expression in two of John Updike’s stories.1 A sentiment expressed in the sermon-like interior monologue that constitutes John Updike’s short story “Lifeguard,” in which the lifeguard preacher remarks, “I don’t know why people no longer go to church,” is reminiscent of a...
2. Have We Heard the End of the Sermon?
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Pictures of two preachers hang above the desk upon which this book was written. One, a cheap souvenir bought with a few drachmas, is a small crudely painted figure of a Greek priest; the other, much more valuable, is a specially commissioned Edward Ardizzone print of a pen-and- ink drawing of Mr. Slope from the...
3. Amen: The Assumption of Authority
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No one has more authority over a text than its author, until the publisher’s editors make their marks. From then on the author lets it go. Once the text is published, the author’s authority over the text has diminished to the extent that it is no greater than that of its readers and its critics. readers can read it in any way they choose...
4. Keeping Faith: The Troubled Preacher in Updike and Lodge
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The troubled “man of God”1 struggling with faith issues and wrestling with spiritual, vocational, or intellectual doubt appears in many guises in contemporary novels. he appears as Father Angwin in hilary Mantel’s Fludd,2 Barney Hardstaff in Catherine Fox’s The Benefits of Passion...
5. Heaven in Ordinary: Religious Experience in Fictional Sermons
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Commentators sometimes complain about the preachiness of Marilynne Robinson’s nonfiction in contrast with her fiction in which “she avoids any kind of preaching in favour of delicately eavesdropping on the spiritual and domestic travails of her characters.”1 Those who make this complaint miss the irony that her two...
6. Words: Poison in the Ear, a Game with Language, or Naming Truth?
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Fictional sermons stand out prominently from their surrounding contexts on the page not only by their presentation within speech marks, in italics, or some other visual cue but also by their use of differentiated language in the form of direct address, specialist vocabulary, or other indications of orality...
7. Shaping Paradise through Preaching
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The various communities that gather around fictional sermons are conflicting in their expectations, diverse in their form, and imprecisely defined. Above all else, they are imagined. That in itself is not a problem. Despite the apparently gloomy sociological prognosis that the only viable communities in contemporary society are imagined communities, this pessimism is more...
8. Memory and Imagination
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With such potential for dissonant chords—clashing authorities, jarring linguistic repertoires, the conflict between realism and spiritual experiences, the gathering of diverse communities with different expectations around a text, and the tense balancing act of keeping faith in a complex world—why do British and American...
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Gentle reader, as John Updike’s Thomas Marshfield addresses you in A Month of Sundays, if you are naught but a reader, then the simplicity of your life is incredible. You are probably much more. You are probably also a Christian believer—or curious about religious belief. Why else would you be reading a book in the...
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Index of Biblical References
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Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: The Making of the Christian Imagination
Series Editor Byline: Stephen Prickett, general editor