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Sacred Fictions Cover

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Sacred Fictions

Holy Women and Hagiography in Late Antiquity

By Lynda L. Coon

Late antique and early medieval hagiographic texts present holy women as simultaneously pious and corrupt, hideous and beautiful, exemplars of depravity and models of sanctity. In Sacred Fictions Lynda Coon unpacks these paradoxical representations to reveal the construction and circumscription of women's roles in the early Christian centuries.

Coon discerns three distinct paradigms for female sanctity in saints' lives and patristic and monastic writings. Women are recurrently figured as repentant desert hermits, wealthy widows, or cloistered ascetic nuns, and biblical discourse informs the narrative content, rhetorical strategies, and symbolic meanings of these texts in complex and multivalent ways. If hagiographers made their women saints walk on water, resurrect the dead, or consecrate the Eucharist, they also curbed the power of women by teaching that the daughters of Eve must make their bodies impenetrable through militant chastity or spiritual exile and must eradicate self-indulgence through ascetic attire or philanthropy.

The windows the sacred fiction of holy women open on the past are far from transparent; driven by both literary invention and moral imperative, the stories they tell helped shape Western gender constructs that have survived into modern times.

Sacred Land Cover

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Sacred Land

Sherwood Anderson, Midwestern Modernism, and the Sacramental Vision of Nature

From the 1910s through the 1930s, Midwestern writers were conspicuously prominent in American literary life. A generation of writers from the Midwest had come of age and had shared an important and motivating cultural experience: the encompassing transformation of rural and urban Midwestern life from traditional craftsmanship, manual labor, and local community to a fragmented, machine-driven, and intensely capitalistic mode of existence. A profound sense of lost possibilities pervaded the literary mood of these authors. An organic Midwestern village culture that had only just begun to take definite shape was swept away, and a fruitful and promising region was sacrificed to crass commercialism.

In Sacred Land, author Mark Buechsel shows that Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others, turned to two potential sources for grounding their region’s and nation’s life authentically: nature itself—particularly the super-abundant nature to be found in Midwestern states and the model provided by the traditional sacramental culture of medieval Europe. The result was a new sacramental vision of how life in the Midwest—and, by extension, life in modern America—might be lived differently. Buechsel demonstrates that each author painted his or her spiritual and cultural vision with different shades and nuances and looked to America’s future with varying degrees of optimism.

Of crucial importance in each author’s work are the characters’ encounters with the Midwestern land, a recalcitrant objective reality that refuses to yield to the wrong kinds of dreams. Characters who are genuinely open to what their engagement with the land has to teach them generally find some personal blessing and learn how to claim a fully human place in the order of things. Characters who fail to learn the lessons nature offers become distorted and grotesque, in a way that expresses the modern condition emblematically. Sacred Land shows that in the process of critiquing American culture, Midwestern writers redefined the American pastoral myth so central to the national psyche.

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Sacred Memories

The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

Kelly McMichael

War memorials are symbols of a community’s sense of itself, the values it holds dear, and its collective memory. They inform us more, perhaps, about the period in which the memorials were erected than the period of the war itself.

Kelly McMichael, in her book, Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas, takes the reader on a tour of Civil War monuments throughout the state and in doing so tells the story of each monument and its creation. McMichael explores Texans’ motivations for erecting Civil War memorials, which she views as attempts during a period of turmoil and uncertainty—“severe depression, social unrest, the rise of Populism, mass immigration, urbanization, industrialization, imperialism, lynching, and Jim Crow laws”—to preserve the memory of the Confederate dead, to instill in future generations the values of patriotism, duty, and courage; to create a shared memory and identity “based on a largely invented story”; and to “anchor a community against social and political doubt.”

Her focus is the human story of each monument, the characters involved in its creation, and the sacred memories held dear to them.

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Sacred Misfits

MARK BLICKLEY

Sacred Misfits is a short fiction collection by Mark Blickley.

Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition Cover

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Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition

Black Christian Nationalism in the Age of Jim Crow

Adele Oltman

Using Savannah, Georgia, as a case study, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition tells the story of the rise and decline of Black Christian Nationalism. This nationalism emerged from the experiences of segregation, as an intersection between the sacred world of religion and church and the secular world of business. The premise of Black Christian Nationalism was a belief in a dual understanding of redemption, at the same time earthly and otherworldly, and the conviction that black Christians, once delivered from psychic, spiritual, and material want, would release all of America from the suffering that prevented it from achieving its noble ideals.

The study’s use of local sources in Savannah, especially behind-the-scenes church records, provides a rare glimpse into church life and ritual, depicting scenes never before described. Blending history, ethnography, and Geertzian dramaturgy, it traces the evolution of black southern society from a communitarian, nationalist system of hierarchy, patriarchy, and interclass fellowship to an individualistic one that accompanied the appearance of a new black civil society.

Although not a study of the civil rights movement, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition advances a bold, revisionist interpretation of black religion at the eve of the movement. It shows that the institutional primacy of the churches had to give way to a more diversified secular sphere before an overtly politicized struggle for freedom could take place. The unambiguously political movement of the 1950s and 1960s that drew on black Christianity and radiated from many black churches was possible only when the churches came to exert less control over members’ quotidian lives.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

Sacred Modern Cover

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Sacred Modern

Faith, Activism, and Aesthetics in the Menil Collection

By Pamela G. Smart

Renowned as one of the most significant museums built by private collectors, the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, seeks to engage viewers in an acutely aesthetic, rather than pedagogical, experience of works of art. The Menil’s emphasis on being moved by art, rather than being taught art history, comes from its founders’ conviction that art offers a way to reintegrate the sacred and the secular worlds. Inspired by the French Catholic revivalism of the interwar years that recast Catholic tradition as the avant-garde, Dominique and John de Menil shared with other Catholic intellectuals a desire to reorder a world in crisis by imbuing modern cultural forms with religious faith, binding the sacred with the modern. Sacred Modern explores how the Menil Collection gives expression to the religious and political convictions of its founders and how “the Menil way” is being both perpetuated and contested as the Museum makes the transition from operating under the personal direction of Dominique de Menil to the stewardship of career professionals. Taking an ethnographic approach, Pamela G. Smart analyzes the character of the Menil aesthetic, the processes by which it is produced, and the sensibilities that it is meant to generate in those who engage with the collection. She also offers insight into the extraordinary impact Dominique and John de Menil had on the emergence of Houston as a major cultural center.

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The Sacred Oral Tradition of the Havasupai

As Retold By Elders and Headmen Manakaja and Sinyella 1918-1921

Edited by Frank D. Tikalsky, Catherine A. Euler, and John Nagel

Early in the twentieth century, Leslie Spier and Erna Gunther, graduate students trained by anthropologist Franz Boas, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to learn about Havasupai culture. In the process, they asked two Havasupai leaders and elders for every story they could remember. These were translated by native speakers and transcribed by Spier and, later, Gunther. Yet for unknown reasons Spier never published the whole collection of forty-eight stories, one of the earliest, most complete translations of an entire Native American oral tradition. Passed from Spier to anthropologist and Havasupai scholar Dr. Robert C. Euler, the stories, published here for the first time in book form with the permission of the Havasupai Tribal Council, are a cultural library and a cultural treasure that reflect an ancient Yuman-language mythological tradition. Publication restores them to the People (Pai/Pa/Pah) from whom they arose.

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Sacred Players

The Politics of Response in the Middle English Religious Drama

Heather Hill-Vásquez

Offering a unique historical perspective to the study of medieval English drama, Heather Hill-Vásquez in Sacred Players argues that different treatments of audience and performance in the early drama indicate that the performance life of the drama may have continued well beyond its traditional placement in medieval history and into the Reformation and Renaissance eras.

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Sacred Revolutions

Durkheim And The College De Sociologie

Michele H. Richman

How is it that the most radical cultural iconoclasts of the interwar years—Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, and Michel Leiris—could have responded to the rise of fascism by taking refuge in a "sacred sociology"? This is the question that Michèle H. Richman poses in a work that examines this seemingly paradoxical development. Her book traces the overall implications for French social thought of the "ethnographic detour" that began with Durkheim’s interest in Australian aboriginal religion—implications that reach back to the Revolution of 1789 and forward to the student protests of May 1968. Richman argues that by revising a phenomenon at once as familiar and as exotic as the sacred, these intellectuals forged a point of view relevant to politics, art, and eroticism in the modern period. Assimilating sociology to this revised notion of the sacred, they revitalized a critical discourse based on anthropological thinking dating back to Montaigne and culminating in Rousseau. Her work thus supplies an important chapter in the history of the human sciences while demonstrating the formation of an innovative critical discourse that straddles literary theory, social thought, and religious and cultural studies.

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Sacred Rhetoric

The Christian Grand Style in the English Renaissance

Debora K. Shuger

"There are no studies of a sacred grand style in the English Renaissance," writes Debora Shuger, "because even according to its practitioners it was not supposed to exist." Yet the grand style forms the unacknowledged center of traditional rhetorical theory. In this first history of the grand style, Professor Shuger explores the growth of a Christian aesthetic out of the Classical grand style, showing its development from Isocrates to the sacred rhetorics of the Renaissance. These rhetorics advocate a Christian grand style neither pedantically mimetic nor playfully sophistic, whose models include Tacitus and the Bible, as well as Cicero, and whose theoretical sources embrace not only Cicero and Quintilian, but Hermogenes and Longinus. This style dominates the best and most scholarly rhetorics of the period--texts written in Latin and, while ignored by most recent scholars, extensively used in England throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These works are the first attempts since Augustine's pioneering revision of Ciceronian rhetoric to reground ancient rhetorical theory on Christian epistemology and theology.

According to Professor Shuger, the Christian grand style is passionate, vivid, dramatic, metaphoric--yet this emotional energy and sensuousness is shaped and legitimated by Renaissance religious culture. Thus sacred rhetoric cannot be considered apart from contemporary theories of cognition, emotion, selfhood, and signification. It mediates between word and world. Moreover, these texts suggest the almost forgotten centrality of neo-Latin scholarship during these years and provide a crucial theoretical context for England's great flowering of devotional prose and poetry.

Originally published in 1988.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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