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Edited by Elisa Heinämäki, P.M. Mehtonen and Antti Salminen

The present “turn to religion” has also meant a rekindled interest in transcendence, a concept once deemed a relic of a metaphysical past. This volume approaches transcendence from a particular perspective: that of language and literature seen as a matrix of expression of transcendence and its interplay of immanence. The essays in this volume probe the poetic and literary devices through which transcendence has been solicited, evoked, and generated. This has also meant revisiting the long Christian tradition, not simply to rehabilitate it but as an indispensable source for present writing and thinking.
“Thus, ultimately, the present anthology offers no apology for traditional views of transcendence and religious experience but presents original contributions to the poetics of transcendence that are sensitive to religious as well as a-religious languages in literature. It is argued that, in order to rethink meanings and the value of transcendence, rigorous ontological philosophy must once again face up to the imaginative potential of poetics.” (From the Introduction)

Mapping the Sacred

Religion, Geography and Postcolonial Literatures


Edited by Jamie S. Scott and Paul Simpson-Housley

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.


Frans Wijsen

In our present globalized world, people in large areas of Africa still lack sus-tainable incomes, and suffer from low life expectancy and exploding poverty. There are heated debates between European and African scholars, and among Africans themselves on the causes of these conditions. The dominant trend in these debates is to blame the West for all past and present evils in Africa: slavery, colonialism, and neo-liberalism. As a solution to the continent's problems, various African scholars advocate beginning an African Renaissance by returning to the traditional African community spirit, called ubuntu in South Africa or ujamaa in Tanzania. Whether this elusive African spirit is still present and if it ever existed at all—or if it is inherently peaceful, as its advocates suggest—is unclear. In Africa, communities are not only social but spiritual realities as well, creating a strong sense of unity. The flipside of this worldview is that it can lead to authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, the suppression of individual freedom and of industrious creativity. This paper weighs the good and bad sides of the possible rehabilitation of African religions.

And the Birds Began to Sing

Religion en Literature in Post-Colonial Cultures


Edited by Jamie S. Scott

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.


Meyer Birgit

Focusing on images of evil, this paper explores differences between the modes of looking induced by the exposition All About Evil at the Royal Tropical Museum in Amsterdam on the one hand and the Christian setting in which the items on display feature in Ghana on the other. While images of evil are more or less harmless depictions in the context of the exposition, in the Ghanaian setting they may easily slip into evil images that render present the very force that they depict. Tracing the genesis of Christian attitudes towards images of evil in Ghana, the paper focuses on the continued importance of the image of Satan in popular Ghanaian Christianity. It is argued that Christianity propounds a religious aesthetics that induces particular “looking acts” and attitudes towards evil through which images of evil achieve a reality of themselves.