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the line from biography to outright literary analysis (261–64). And she offers a less thorough exploration of the poet’s relational struggles than Greene does. Overall, however, she weaves together a plenitude of information—much of it from Levertov’s own poems, talks, journals, even unsent letters—in a way that sustains interest and reveals her subject. Hollenberg’s fuller biography should be the first choice for a general reader who wants to know Levertov better, as well as for scholars seeking biographical associations and interpretations of specific poems. Greene’s may be useful for those who want more holistic interpretation of the poet’s life, especially its relational and spiritual aspects; the summaries in Greene’s chapter-opening paragraphs also make her volume accessible to students and others who just want to catch the highlights. But the two authors’ approaches are sufficiently different that they often complement rather than compete with one another. As Greene writes, hers is an ‘‘experiment ’’ rather than a final ‘‘definitive’’ account (234). Each book offers a specific angle on a complex and ultimately mysterious ‘‘inscape’’ (ibid.). Levertov’s poems often seem strikingly transparent to her own experience; yet they also leave much unsaid. And while she asserted the priority of poetry, her own story deserves to be told. Greene and Hollenberg together help illuminate Levertov’s work for scholars, fellow-writers, and all those who have been moved, delighted, and instructed by her poems. Both deserve a share of the gratitude that Levertov herself sought to cultivate toward the goodness and wonder of the world. Jonathan Kanary Baylor University The Forsaken Son: Child Murder and Atonement in Modern American Fiction. By Joshua Pederson. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2016. ISBN 0810132273. Hardcover $99.95. ISBN 0810132281. Paperback $34.95. Pp. ix + 173. Since the 1960s, a growing number of Christian theologians have developed a thoroughgoing reassessment of traditional theories of the atonement, arguing that our dominant modes of understanding the crucifixion have unwittingly legitimated violence and exploitation in both our interpersonal relations and our broader social norms. In his recent work, Joshua Pederson argues that the alarmingly frequent child murders that occur in postwar American fiction are expressions of their authors’ skepticism about atonement theology and function as aesthetic extensions of a critical theological discourse that regards the death of Jesus as a filicide rather than a redemptive sacrifice. He contends that a number of leading contemporary American novelists create narratives of infanticide, where murdered children operate as Christ figures, in order to engage in ‘‘a deep and honest struggle with Christianity’’ (10). Like their theological counterparts, these authors— Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and 728 Christianity & Literature 66(4) Cormac McCarthy—grapple with traditional atonement models in an attempt to reveal the significant ethical problems they entail. In two introductory chapters, Pederson begins by reviewing the two theological models that have constituted Christianity’s traditional interpretation of atonement. He then offers a literary review of the postwar protest theologians that have critiqued those interpretations. Then, in each of five subsequent chapters, he examines a single contemporary American novel to elucidate how it contributes to the indictment of atonement theology. Pederson explains that, since the Middle Ages, atonement theology has taken two primary forms. The first is best represented by the thought of Anselm of Canterbury who conceived of atonement as an ‘‘economy of sin and redemption’’ (19). Here, humanity, through sin, collectively accrues a debt to God that they cannot repay. Jesus functions as a kind of sacred currency and through His suffering and sacrifice is expended as a ransom, redeeming our debt by repaying it on behalf of humanity. Anselm contends that, in this holy exchange, Jesus satisfies the debt owed to God by acting as humanity’s surrogate, compensating God through his death. This interpretation has given us what has alternately been known as ‘‘substitutionary, satisfaction, and ransom models of atonement’’ (20). Around the same time, Peter Abelard developed an alternative interpretation of the crucifixion. For Abelard, Jesus serves as an exemplar of ideal human behavior through His ‘‘obedience to the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 728-732
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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