The heart of what we believe: Cultural Negotiation of Religion in the Fiction of Marilynne Robinson, Louise Erdrich, and Allegra Goodman

Date: 23 May 2016

Venue: Stadscampus - Grauwzusters - Promotiezaal - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerpen

Time: 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte

PhD candidate: Megan Milota

Principal investigator: prof. dr. Luc Herman

Short description: Doctoraatsverdediging Megan Milota - Departement Letterkunde - Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte



The heart of what we believe: Cultural Negotiation of Religion in the Fiction of Marilynne Robinson, Louise Erdrich, and Allegra Goodman

The predominance of religious belief in America is an enduring social phenomenon; in spite of falling church attendance in the last fifty years, the vast majority of Americans still consider themselves religious, believe in God, or express an interest in deepening their spiritual understanding. As a means of better understanding the transfer of cultural materials about religion in the Unites States, this dissertation explores the ways in which a literary author’s explicit encoding of belief impacts the narrative interest in a text. A fundamental premise of this dissertation is that cultural materials—such as those pertaining to religious belief—are in circulation, that we can understand both a culture and its inhabitants if we can trace the transfer of these materials, and that the best way to do so is to examine what the relevant actors themselves find important or relevant.

For these reasons, this dissertation envisions and executes a metahermeneutic analysis of a corpus of literary texts: Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004) and Home (2008), Allegra Goodman’s Kaaterskill Falls (1998), and Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001). In other words, this dissertation combines qualitative and quantitative studies of a variety of actors who participate in the transfer of these cultural materials—such as professional critics, amateur online reviewers, and book club members—with a concerted effort to engage with the literary texts themselves. It also contextualizes the cultural materials pertaining to religious belief found in the literary texts within the broader background of American religious and cultural history. In order to do justice to the broad swath of material collected and considered, this dissertation employs a wide variety of approaches from multiple fields, including literary and cultural sociology, history, media studies, critical ethnography, conversation analysis, theology, and narrative studies.



Contact email: megan.milota@uantwerpen.be