Toward a Dialogue on Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and Home

By LaMascus, R. Scott | Christianity and Literature, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Toward a Dialogue on Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and Home


LaMascus, R. Scott, Christianity and Literature


A long-time faculty member of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Marilynne Robinson has been recognized widely and consistently for the quality of her fiction: Housekeeping (1980) won the Hemingway/PEN award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer; Gilead (2004) was awarded the Pulitzer as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Home (2007) was a National Book Award finalist and winner of Britain's Orange Prize. In 1987 Robinson's first novel also was made into a film directed by Bill Forsythe, starring Christine Lahti. Three non-fiction works, Mother Country (1989), The Death of Adam (1998), and the forthcoming Absence of Mind (scheduled for release in 2010) develop arguments on a wide range of topics from evolutionary theory to nuclear pollution to John Calvin. As Michael Dirda testifies in his review of Gilead, one rereads Robinson's sentences "sometimes for their beauty, sometimes for their truth." Moreover, Robinson's courage in confronting contemporary culture in a fresh and unabashedly Christian way draws her readers, reviewers, and scholars into dialogue. Dirda touches on the religious dimension of her prose: "It is so serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it" Robinson's stories and characters not only delight and instruct but also deeply move us on matters of Christian faith.

Perhaps James Wood best articulates the context in which Robinson's writing sounds the chords of American faith:

Gilead is a beautiful work--demanding, grave and lucid--and is, if anything, more out of time than Robinson's book of essays, suffused as it is with a Protestant bareness that sometimes recalls George Herbert (who is alluded to several times, along with John Donne) and sometimes the American religious spirit that produced Congregationalism and 19th-century Transcendentalism and those bareback religious riders Emerson, Thoreau and Melville. ("Acts of Devotion")

To say that we are surprised by the ways in which faith is treated in her narratives is to register our joy at having found in them a voice that echoes such authors yet remains fresh in a time characterized by cynicism, one of Robinson's favorite targets (Robinson). Her achievement has led the Board of the Conference on Christianity and Literature to award Robinson the CCL 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Editors of this journal to devote this special issue of Christianity and Literature to scholarly considerations of her work (Cox).

In this issue, Robinson's skill in the essay is apparent in her contribution, "Wondrous Love." Here, Robinson urges us to consider our responses to the present cultural moment and reminds us to have faith in narrative, to redouble our confidence in it by avoiding "tribalism, resentment, and fear?' As readers also know from reading her nonfiction and essays in Harpers, to name but one of her favorite venues, a Robinson essay is to be savored for the rigor of its argument and the beauty of its textures. As always in her essays, she lucidly revises our understanding of significant texts we should read or re-read, and urges us to resist the conventional. "Wondrous Love" is no exception and has, among other things, sent me back to my hymnal with renewed appreciation. She urges us to cherish hymn narratives and find the mysteries of our faith anew through them. Robinson argues that like "musical notation" a narrative also "establishes the way in which it is to be read, and, in the largest sense, what it means." By asking us why we are fearful, she urges us to eschew the "narrative of decline" and to embrace a more meaningful "narrative of origins."

The scholars in this special journal issue focus mainly on Gilead and Home as we wrestle with two best-selling novels that have engaged readers and reviewers in a vibrant conversation over the past several years. In Gilead, readers meet minister John Ames as he writes to the young son of his old age. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Toward a Dialogue on Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and Home
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.