religion Archive

People of the Book: Jewish Lessons in Reading

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The postmodernists are often credited with originating the idea that all the world’s a text, a constellation of signs and symbols to be read and reread unto eternity. Really, it was the Jews. Judaism is a religion obsessed with text and textuality, with making meaning through the cultivation of

Notes on the State of Virginia: Journey to the Center of an American Document, Queries XVII-XVIII

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Here’s a confession. When I talk about NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, I sometimes refer to Jefferson’s “queries” as “cantos.” Like a poetic canto, which stands or falls on the music of its syllables, Jefferson’s queries must have enough tensile strength to contain his ideas, and space to

The Best Essay I Read This Month: “Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me” by Kate Bowler

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There is a cherished belief among much of the religious portion of this country that God has a purpose for all things, that there’s logic to circumstances that would otherwise just seem to sort of happen to us. “Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me” by Kate Bowler, which appeared

Four Intriguing Ideas from Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism

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With five new critical studies of Northrop Frye hitting the bookstores this year, 2015 is turning out to be Frye’s year. Frye was one of the 20th century masters of myth criticism: if you’re at all interested in archetypes, the hero’s journey, or the intersection of religion and literature,

Writers: Go and Sin Some More.

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By the time you read this, I’ll be in London, having just given a paper on my (very erotic) manipulations of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry. (More on that in a minute.) Meanwhile, in my songwriter life, I’m preparing to record some songs that leap beyond the safe bounds of

Reading Devoutly, Writing Devoutly

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Although I’m not religious, there are days when I wish I could teleport my writing students back for just a few sessions of my childhood religious-study classes. Surely, those teachers who once schooled me in old-fashioned text learning didn’t think they were training me to be a fiction writer.