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BOOK REVIEWS 667 Reading for Redemption: Practical Christian Criticism. By Christian R. Davis. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011. ISBN978-1-6I097-064-8. Pp. vi + 124. $16.00. Establishing a new form of criticism is a business fraught with peril, especially a form of practical Christian criticism. There is, first of all, the likely eventuality that few outside the Christian scholarly community will pay much heed, and then there is the distinct possibility of meeting resistance within the community itself. Christian R. Davis, however, faces these challenges gamely with Reading for Redemption: Practical Christian Criticism. Davis begins with two sweeping assertions: "First, that the pattern of creation, fall and redemption is the foundation of all literature; and second, that the ways in which literature affects readers are determined by the ways in which that literature portrays redemption" (1). Furthermore, Davis states that the most powerful and popular works of literature are the ones that follow the pattern of redemption portrayed in the gospels, where an innocent redeemer becomes the sacrifice whereby salvation is achieved. In the chapters that follow,Davis seeks to support his claims by looking at various classical works, best-selling fiction, and postcolonial literature. He also claims that this pattern of redemption can be observed at the semantic level and examines works that are distinctly anti-redemptive, arguing that the thwarted expectation of redemption is what gives such works their power. Davis claims that the interpretive approach he lays out forms the basis of a new kind of practical Christian criticism and identifies the approach as archetypal, and one of the interesting and appealing aspects of the study is Davis' willingness to approach a wide range of texts in order to establish the archetype. Furthermore, one of the benefits of the work is that it offers a theoretical basis for what many readers do already, and what many Christian readers do instinctively, which is to look for patterns of redemption in art-patterns that reflect their own belief in a universal redemptive order. Davis acknowledges that his most sympathetic readers will, in all likelihood, be those who themselves approach literature from a Christian perspective. This is a plausible assertion, but even those readers may question some of Davis'sunderlying assumptions. "Tragedy:' Davis tells us, "has often been considered the highest form of literature, and I argue that this estimation has arisen precisely because this genre most often approaches the Christian pattern of redemption" (14). One might contend that comedy, with its conventional emphasis on reconciliation, feasting, and marriage is the literary form that best approaches that pattern. And in his appendix, Davis does recognize Ralph Wood's TheComedy ofRedemption: Christian Faith and Comic Vision in Four American Novelists (1988), but he does not engage the opposing point of view other than to claim, inaccurately, that "Woods limits his critical theory by focusing only on literature written by avowed Christians" (117). Even more surprising, I believe, to many readers will be the statement that "if Christians believe that their way of seeing the world is the correct way, then 668 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE their way of interpreting literature should be the correct way" (2). While there are certainly some Christians who believe that there is only one correct way to read a text-the "Christian" way-many would hold that a Christian worldview does not limit them to a particular way of interpreting a text but in fact opens up many possible modes of interpretation. For readers who do share these assumptions, the question is whether Davis' readings of individual texts offer compelling support for the claims he makes about redemption being the key element of all narrative. Sometimes they do, particularly his reading of popular works such as A Tale of Two Cities, the Harry Potter series, The Lord ofthe Rings, and Ben Hur. But there are other times when Davis' attempts to place works within a redemptive framework seem forced. For example, Davis says that in Hamlet, Shakespeare "turns a simple act of revenge into a redeeming sacrifice" (19). Such might be the case, but in the page and a half that Davis devotes to Hamlet, too little evidence is offered to substantiate the claim beyond other...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 667-669
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-04
Open Access
No
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