Losing Everything: Jenny Offill’s “Dept. of Speculation”

Dept of SpeculationWhat does it feel like to lose what matters most? It feels like life is askant, disoriented, even though you are surrounded by friends, children, and meaningful work. That’s why Jenny Offill’s Dept of Speculation (Vintage, 2014) works. Continue reading

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History, Humanity, and Ha Jin’s “Nanjing Requiem”

nanjing requiemWhen I learned that the prolific, award-winning Ha Jin had been named to the highly selective American Academy of Arts and Letters (an exclusive honor recognizing only 250 members at any given time), I decided to read Nanjing Requiem (Pantheon, 2011) to learn more about the author and his noted prose style. Continue reading

Paul Fiddes on Theology and Literature

fiddesI recently shared a passage from Paul Fiddes’s The Promised End: Eschatology in Theology and Literature (2000) with students in my class on interdisciplinary theology. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Oxford, offers a constructive model for how to perform theology through literature: Continue reading

Losing Religion, Finding Self in Thompson’s “Blankets”

Blankets CoverStories permeate religious discourse, and among the most important stories in the history of Christianity are those which recount the life converted. Shared features have emerged over time—a search for meaning, a recognition of self-limitation, choices that signal self-denial and dependence on another. These moments, which reappear through time and across cultures, signal shared understanding of faith and community, and provide theologically rich sources of reflection on God and the self. But while some evangelical conversion narratives became formulaic in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many recent “spiritual autobiographies” or “life writings” have broken convention with remarkably powerful results. Continue reading