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HUMANITIES 311 as initiation narratives that .. explore the sacrality of nature through a legitimate, because limited, appropriation ofNative religious symbols.Tom York's spiritual biography, And Sleep in the Woods, exemplifies the quest paradigm, which is parodically revisioned and feminized in Aritha Van Herk's No Fixed Address. Finally, a lengthy chapter onJoy Kagawa's fiction demonstrates the sacred syncretism that redeems the sufferings ofJapanese Canadians. James concludes that, despite the exclusive demands that Western religious traditions have made on our society, 'religious dimorphism' is the characteristic practice of most Canadians locating the sacred in nature and culture. This eclectic and compartmentalized spirituality - personat individual, and 'cobbled together from various sources' - is the present and the future of religious experience in Canada. James honestly provides, and only partially rebuts, the inevitable criticisms ofsuch a volurne. He notes that the theologian-critic David Jasper castigates such humanistic attempts to redefine the absolutes of 'the entire theological enterprise' in vague terms like 'otherness' and 'alterity' as 'religion (and literature) without commitment.' And in james's book, virtually everything in human experience of culture and nature can now qualify as religion, not just the numinous and transcendent but also the negative and transitory. James also anticipates (and only partly refutes) the reader's scepticism about the mythologizing of canoe trips as 'a frivolous and pointless exercise,' and about the inevitable Eurocentrism of even his sensitive analysis of the Belcher Islands Massacre. He strenuously attempts to provide a coherent argument that links these disparate essays (more than half of which were previously published during the last eighteen years) in a two-part theory/ case-study volume. But there are inevitable repetitions and inconsistencies. Nevertheless,James's knowledge and understanding ofpopular religion in Canada are impressive and convincing. His close readings of the literary texts are insightful and persuasive. His writing is literate, intelligent, and mercifully jargon-free. Religious or not, the Canadian reader will find here an essential cultural comme,ntary. (BARBARA PELL) Issa J. Boullata and Terri De Young, editors. Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Literature University of Arkansas Press 1997. xviii, 286. $53.00 This volume is a collection of papers in honour of Professor Mounah A. Khouri (1918-1996), 'poet, literary critic and scholar, professor of several generations of students of Arabic literature and language in the Middle East and the UnitedStates.' It features commentaryby specialists in a range of disciplines: Arabic language and literature, Persian literature, compara- 312 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 tive literature, cultural studies, medieval and modern history, and Islamic studies. What this volume does best is acquaint the interested outsider with the complex of historical and political events, dreams, objectives, and cultural intricacies that shape the context of Arabic literature and its contemporary commentary. 'Nasser and the Death of Elegy in Modern Arabic Poetry' examines the strategy of a modem poet in opening up a traditional literary form, the elegy 'as a site of both social myth and personal engagement' against the backdrop of European colonialism, the duel between literature and newer forms of communication for audiences, and the troubled relationship of Nasser and Egyptian intellectuals. The essay on Egyptian theatre is a treasure-trove of information about the entanglement of theatre (and in fact all artistic forms) in the cultural crosscurrents of the twentieth century, and the formidable task of winning fresh sources of patronage. The problem of loss of identity mentioned in passing by an earlier generation of critics becomes a growing concern for a later generation of critics in this volume. 'A Different Voice' examines the work of a Libyan novelist as a 'confrontation between the values of past and present.' Of the thirteen essays, the majority deal with the modern period: six with poetry, three with the novel, one with film, and one with theatre. The remairung three discuss classical poetry. A gathering of this sort provides for interesting inSights. The paper on a thirteenth-century poet's 'manipulation' of a pre-Islamic Arabian poem (showing how the reworking of a poem produced in the 'age of ignorance' is utilized to communicate the beliefs of a devout poet of a later age) relies on a broad spectrum of resources:an existing translation of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 311-312
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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