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Author: Sára Tóth

Abstract

Marilynne Robinson, in her novels and essays, sets out to retrieve a foundational strain of religious experience, one that has been minimized or even repressed in most branches of the Protestant tradition. This is what, following Paul Ricœur, American theologian David Tracy calls “the manifestation orientation” in religious expression. Building on Tracy’s distinction between “manifestation and proclamation” within Christianity, I identify and analyze a shift of emphasis from the “proclamation orientation” of Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping, with its presentation of human existence as radically homeless and alienated, to “manifestation” in Robinson’s later work. In the Gilead novels, while preserving the proclamation orientation of Protestantism through an indictment of social injustice, she corrects the one-sided Protestant emphasis on divine transcendence and human sin, affirming a fundamental “at-home-ness” (Tracy) in the universe. Through her fictional Protestant minister and a creative rereading of classical Protestant theologians, Robinson offers an imaginative alternative to Weberian accounts of Protestant spirituality.

In: Religion and the Arts