Interweaving the interpretative methods of religious studies, literary criticism and cultural geography, the essays in this volume focus on issues associated with the representation of place and space in the writing and reading of the postcolonial. The collection charts the ways in which contemporary writers extend and deepen our awareness of the ambiguities of economic, social and political relations implicated in “sacred space” - the sense of spiritual significance associated with those concrete locations in which adherents of different religious traditions, past and present, maintain a ritual sense of the sanctity of life and its cycles. Part I, “Land, Religion and Literature after Britain,” explores how postcolonial writers dramatize the contested processes of colonization, resistance and decolonization by which lands and landscapes may be viewed as now sacred, now desacralized, now resacralized. Part II, “Sacred Landscapes and Postcoloniality across International Literatures,” draws upon postcolonial theory to inquire into how contemporary fiction, drama and poetry represent themes of divine dispensation, dispossession and reclamation in regions as diverse as Haiti, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Arctic, and the North American frontier. A critical “Afterword” considers the implications of such multi-disciplinary approaches to postcolonial literatures for present and future research in the field. Writers discussed in the essays include Russell Banks; James K. Baxter; Ursula Bethell; Erna Brodber; Marcus Clarke; Allen Curnow; Edwidge Danticat; Mak Dizdar; Sara Jeannette Duncan; Zee Edgell; “Grey Owl”; Haruki Murakami; Seamus Heaney; Peter Høeg; Hugh Hood; Janette Turner Hospital; James Houston; Dany Laferrière; B. Kojo Laing; Lee Kok Liang; K.S. Maniam; Mudrooroo; R.K. Narayan; Ngugi wa Thiong'o; Ben Okri; Chava Pinchas-Cohen; Mary Prince; Nancy Prince; Nayantara Sahgal; Ken Saro-Wiwa; Ibrahim Tahir; Amos Tutuola; W.D. Valgardson; Derek Walcott; and Rudy Wiebe. Maps accompany almost every essay.
Women are rarely if ever mentioned in commentaries upon Australian Christianity and spirituality. Only exceptional women are recognized as authorities on religious matters. Why is this so? Does it matter? Don't people from the same religious tradition share similar experiences of the divine, regardless of their gender?
Rewriting God asks whether women have been writing about the divine and whether their insights are different from those contained in malestream accounts of Australian Christianity and spirituality. An analysis of the writings of popular theologians and religious commentators over the last twenty years suggests that the most popular form of spirituality among Australian theologians is Desert Spirituality. An analysis of women's autobiographical writings, however, suggests that the desert is irrelevant to many women's spiritual experiences. This book, through a close investigation of the fictions of Thea Astley, Elizabeth Jolley and Barbara Hanrahan, attempts to posit alternative forms of women's spirituality and to signal ways in which this spirituality is already being expressed.
From the evidence gathered here, it becomes obvious that traditional expressions of Australian Christianity and spirituality are gender-specific and that they have functioned to deny women's religious experiences and to silence their claims to equality in the sight and service of the divine. It becomes obvious, too, that women have been developing their own forms of religious expression and that these may be expected to supplant gradually withering images of Desert Spirituality. Whether this new imagery will strengthen Australian Christianity or whether it merely marks a decline in the authority of Christianity remains a moot point.
Taking as its starting-point the ambiguous heritage left by the British Empire to its former colonies, dominions and possessions,
And the Birds Began to Sing marks a new departure in the interdisciplinary study of religion and literature. Gathered under the rubric Christianity and Colonialism, essays on Brian Moore. Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood and Marian Engel, Thomas King, Les A. Murray, David Malouf, Mudrooroo and Philip McLaren, R.A.K. Mason, Maurice Gee, Keri Hulme, Epeli Hau'ofa, J.M. Coetzee, Christopher Okigbo, Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola and Ngugi wa Thiong'o explore literary portrayals of the effects of British Christianity upon settler and native cultures in Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, and the Africas. These essays share a sense of the dominant presence of Christianity as an inherited system of religious thought and practice to be adapted to changing post-colonial conditions or to be resisted as the lingering ideology of colonial times. In the second section of the collection, Empire and World Religions, essays on Paule Marshall and George Lamming, Jean Rhys, Olive Senior and Caribbean poetry, V.S. Naipaul, Anita Desai, Kamala Markandaya, and Bharati Mukherjee interrogate literature exploring relations between the scions of British imperialism and religious traditions other than Christianity. Expressly concerned with literary embodiments of belief-systems in post-colonial cultures (particularly West African religions in the Caribbean and Hinduism on the Indian subcontinent), these essays also share a sense of Christianity as the pervasive presence of an ideological rhetoric among the economic, social and political dimensions of imperialism. In a polemical Afterword, the editor argues that modes of reading religion and literature in post-colonial cultures are characterised by a theodical preoccupation with a praxis of equity.