The Trouble with Sauling Around
Conversion in Ethnic American Autobiography, 1965–2002
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Iowa Press
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This study was first conceived while I was a doctoral student, and it was the combination of encouragement from my mentor, Christopher Douglas, my commitment to my own ideas and voice, and the validation of editors and readers at the University of Iowa Press that transformed it into a book. My gratitude to Chris Douglas is enormous and ...
Introduction: The Trouble with Conversion
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In his 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama, at one time a confirmed agnostic, relates his turn to Christianity. I want to describe that scene because, in many ways, Obama’s narrated conversion encapsulates the story of this book: the story of how religious conversion in ethnic American autobiography routinely enlists social, ...
1. Conversion and the Intractable Saul: The Autobiography of Malcolm X
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In his epilogue to The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley gives us an endearing, bittersweet glimpse into the lindy-hopping Malcolm X of preconversion days, allowing the reader a glimpse of what might be called the intractable Saul:...
2. Conversion, Deconversion, and Reversion: Oscar Zeta Acosta’s Autofictions
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Being alert to “Sauling around” means being attentive to the complex and subversive aspects of conversion, particularly to indications of ambivalence in conversion experiences. For Malcolm X, “Sauling around” is manifested in his lingering nostalgia for preconversion activities as a sober NOI narrator; for Oscar Zeta Acosta, it is exemplified ...
3. Serial Conversion and Pauling Around: Amiri Baraka’s The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones
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If Alexis de Tocqueville, Sacvan Bercovitch, and Max Weber are correct, Puritanism is at the very fiber of American culture, although it is now a historical rather than a living religion. Tocqueville famously prophesied that “the whole destiny of America [is] contained in the first Puritan who landed on these shores” (quoted in Bercovitch 19). ...
4. Converting the Church: Richard Rodriguez and the Browning of Catholicism
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The experiences narrated by Malcolm X, Acosta, and Baraka demonstrate how social and cultural forces propel religious conversion and deconversion. The flip side to those experiences is the phenomena of tenacious cradle religions that make it difficult for believers to convert to other faiths. Richard ...
Conclusion: Unlinking Religious Belief and Identity
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“Sauling around” and “Pauling around” are often the result of socially determined religious conversion. Although Rodriguez gives a glimpse of the possibility for men and women to push back against religion by converting institutions over time, the other autobiographers in this book suffer the effects of religious conversion by denying parts ...
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Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2011