RELIGION & THE MODERN NOVEL

Krupnick, Mark

RELIGION & THE MODERN NOVEL What my Japanese students helped me see Mark Krupnick have spent the last two summers teaching Eng- ness of their own...

...McCarthy the adult memoirist is not Monitor explicit on this point, but as I read this chapter she conceives Cloth $26.95 ISBN 0-691-05989-6 her grandmother as an old Christian stereotype of the Jew...
...If, in the case of Didion, you don't know that the think, is that little Mary is implicitly being depicted as iden- liturgy unifies the disparate members of the Anglican contifying with her grandmother, the exotic outsider...
...As a conseDidion's Book of Common Prayer, would serve these goals in in- quence, I read and taught these books in a different way than teresting ways...
...But Spark's comic detachment is not melodramatic: Miss Brodie is a parody-Christ THE CROSSROAD PUBLISHING COMPANY 481 Eighth A% cnuc, Suite 1550, New York, NY 10001 but not the Antichrist...
...Set down like that, my formulation looks sons...
...This means in practice that my students were waiting to see what I thought and were skeptical about the usefulMark Krupnick teaches English literature at the University of Chicago Divinity School...
...It would be more accurate, however, to say that Miss evolving spiritual consciousness of Brodie is a parody-Christ...
...No, not afraid...
...Initially, I "Following a talented theologian in the was interested in her relationship to her "set," the ten-yearskillful exercise of her craft generates olds who idolize their wildly eccentric teacher in their othgenuine excitement...
...emotional intensity to her life...
...I wanted to learn self-consciously as an American and as a representative of about my students by becoming involved with them as per- Western civilization...
...One is that Japanese culture confers great authority on the teacher...
...over to violence and nihilism...
...Miss Brodie's idealization of 256 pp 0-8264-1190-8 $29.95 hbd Mussolini's Fascists only reveals the soft spots in her romantic aestheticism...
...authority, and tradition to restore its practice Unfortunately for seventeenth-century Japanese Catholics, of ordaining women to the diaconate...
...I wondered what my students could make of Spark's deeply Catholic sensibility...
...As for learning about Japan's culforeshadowing of her own literary role as the rebel who risks ture, I hope to go there some time soon to find out what difbeing marginalized as a pariah...
...But I also wanted to teach I discovered what Americans and other Westerners have them about certain aspects of American culture, and I want- often discovered in thinking about how to present European ed to help them improve their skills in reading literature and and American literature to Asian readers...
...There are probably many reasons that my exercise in amateur anthropology was a bust...
...Miss Brodie is an eccentric Communion of Saints spinster and schoolteacher in 1930s Edinburgh...
...My Japanese students were very astute about the gender relationships...
...Holy Saturday] is mained a closed society...
...I wanted to clarify certain organizing themes of the into the heart of Japanese culture, it did force me to rethink courses (religion and the novel one summer, gender relations where and how I might learn about my guests...
...He is the author of Lionel Trilling and the Fate of Cultural Criticism...
...As Commonweal readers A "MUST READ" FOR perhaps know, the present near-moribund condition of EVERY CATHOLIC Catholicism in Japan would have been a surprise to Catholics four centuries ago, when the Jesuit priest Francis Xavier Phyllis Zagano brought Christianity to Japan...
...When I listen I still Sunday worship...
...So first, in 1614, Japan ex- readable style, this argument in seven steps pelled all the priests and, twenty-five years later, all the re- brings women's ordination to the diaconate maining Europeans...
...EtliawrH JOHNSON, ($1 enjoyed in its heyday...
...There were other reasons havlish literature to Japanese adults who come to ing to do with Japanese attitudes but also with my students' I the University of Chicago to finish their work lack of experience as readers...
...But the adult memoirist, per- piction of a total breakdown of order and community...
...She e-mailed me: "I have little idea about ChrisTwentieth Century tianity...
...Moreover, she is the only woman in the Mc- AT FINE BOOKSTORES OR CALL 800-777-4726 WWW.PUP.PRINCETON.ED Commonweal 13 May 5, 2000 Seattle's upscale fashion stores, might seem too vacuous to use in making any large point...
...formed by her daughter's involvement in terrorism and disEven of breath, I lean into appearance into the underground to avoid arrest...
...I had some broad goals as to what I wanted to do for text...
...But, as I read this concluding Listening for Language chapter, McCarthy is suggesting, in the portrait of Gussie, how the little girl Mary will grow into a woman quite contrary, When I listen, the river is far more aggressively so than the self-isolated Jewish grandthe first sound I hear, mother...
...Nagasaki is now famous in the West as the site of one A clear and reasoned discussion that conof the devastating American atomic-bomb attacks, but it was chs it is entirely within the Church's power, famous in the seventeenth century as the Rome of the East...
...critic...
...But I have alluded to their Carthy and Preston families to be associated with the erotic...
...She looks back as one who has esHenry Leroy Finch S caped from Edinburgh and converted to CatholiSimone Weil and the cism...
...Even now, well over a century since graceful, cogent, fair to critics, and well Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan to open to the West, grounded' in theology, history, and church docCatholicism has not recovered anything like the prestige it uments...
...I have found that, as a literary critic, il- culine pronoun not because the learning is possible only for lumination begins when you are flummoxed by something in men but because I am talking about what happened to me...
...How, haps recalling Joyce's Stephen Dedalus and his invocation of then, did I spend my summer...
...She will Then, some ghost of a wind devote a career to making up for the shame and abuse heaped that slips under the door, on her during her Minneapolis years by her mother's Catholic looks for syllables in spaces, relatives in the terrible aftermath of her parents' sudden death in the evening's soft bowl of silence: when she was six...
...In the summer of 1998 I what you already know or have already read-when you taught a section on religion and the modern novel...
...Anticipating that women students transcend ourselves and arrive at a new understanding...
...The surprising thing is that this course, supposed to I R ENDS U F Elizabeth A. Johnson be about gender roles, turned out to be about religion also...
...I asked them to be es- tries...
...In her gious residues...
...Miss Brodie loses her job, which is tantamount to losing her 0-8_245-1846-22 $39.95 hc, illustrated reason for existing...
...a text...
...Commonweal 1 2 May 5, 2000 What, indeed, does it mean to belong to a "school" such as Catholic...
...The anxious novice reader will tend to minimize any my students, partly to justify the colossal expense (in hope anomalies that are encountered...
...It's in unex- the experience but was often frustrated because I had only pected and estranging moments that we have the chance to five students in the class...
...chapter, twice as many pages as any previous chapter, on her "Harding has brought fascination with her maternal grandmother-who was a Jew...
...Spark takes these to be virtues fostered by Catholicism...
...novelists who were writing in the same years...
...Why, then, I have asked myself, did McCarthy religion and the modern elect to end this book about her Catholic girlhood with a long world...
...For Americans young woman, leaving behind four small children...
...Gussie is shown, even in her old age, as wholly carnal, occupied with paints, powders, and lotions to preserve her once- Princeton University Press great beauty...
...I unique, and accessible wondered what my students would think about one chap- work that takes fundater over which I myself have long puzzled...
...My students handled those skilled, both in the architectonic sweep issues with relative ease but were often stymied by the way in of her work and in her careful attention which religion shapes Spark's story...
...These are the moments when you stop finding only Let me explain in more detail...
...What little we learn incisive and empathetic...
...Her analysis is was a deeply mysterious, romantic figure...
...I could only reply that there were probably fewer than six degrees of dif- Susan Friend Harding ference between that Japanese attitude and my own...
...byterian, Episcopal, Calvinism, Catholic...
...In A thoughtful examination of Weil's Spark's view, Miss Brodie is no god but a self-deceived, selfcontribution to twentieth century philointoxicated spinster who is using her girls to give order and sophical and religious thought...
...less violence of the Radical Left, it is a story about a vacuous, Not fearing...
...It was very hard for my students to report on their experience in this way...
...And Johnson is erwise constricted all-girls' school...
...In the century that followed HOLY SATURDAY HOLY his arrival in 1549, as many as 300,000 Japanese may have SATURDAY An Argument for the Restoration of the converted to Christianity, and Jesuits became influential as advisers to powerful lords and even some of the country's Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church rulers...
...to detail...
...This was possible because these were mature people, pretentious to me...
...Order Direct at 800-395-0690 McCarthy's memoir is notable for its attitude of disdain toward most forms of American Catholic life and American Catholics themselves...
...One of my students said that in Japan, where humility is a higher value than undiplomatic self-as- The Book of Jerry Falwell sertion, anyone as arrogant and self-willed as the young Mary Fundamentalist Language and Politics would prove embarrassing to those close to her...
...I do when I teach American students...
...Contains moving betraying her teacher...
...I use the massimilar circumstances...
...If, as with the Japanese students, you have quiet, reclusive way, Gussie had all those years been in exile little knowledge of the historical relationship between Chrisamong Seattle's genteel Christians...
...For the next two centuries Japan re- into the clear light of day...
...of Joan Didiori s A Book of Common Prayer...
...What he is likely to learn concerns that literature itself pecially attentive to moments in the assigned texts when char- and the culture (his own) in which it is embedded...
...the finely tuned eyes Augusta ("Gussie") Morganstern Preston, the wife of and ears of an anthropologist to her research Mary's maternal grandfather, seems at first an unlikely hero- inside Falwell's fundaine...
...I enjoyed cease gazing at your own image in the mirror...
...Commonweal I I May 5, 2000 WINNER OF THE 1999 AMERICAN ACADEMY OF RELIGIONS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE might be more interested in gender roles than in religion, last IN THE STUDY OF RELIGION, CONSTRUCTIVE-REFLECTIVE STUDIES CATEGORYsummer I changed my topic and wound up with twelve students...
...Commonweal 320 pp 0-8264-1198-3 $19.95 pbk park was raised in Calvinist Edinburgh and in this novel she looks back at her own Scottish childhood...
...The result of Sandy's betrayal is that biographical portraits of key protagonists...
...The moththe always approaching moment er becomes a drifter, finally offering her life in a revolutionary that might tell all I was cataclysm that takes place in a banana republic wholly given stumbling wordless toward...
...Here, in the identification with the scarred outsider, its faint brush of light are the beginnings of the adult McCarthy as a radical social over stones a hidden syntax...
...Spark's consistently satiric view our tine and an invaluable resource of human affairs doesn't allow for the easy inflation of charfor those trying to make sense of tl-ir acters into Christ figures, a sentimental weakness of other new spiritual awakening...
...sion in these stories that they were missing...
...But to the child Mary she munity...
...Put more simply, an American is not likeranging in age from their late twenties to around fifty...
...McCarthy makes the point that Gussie had not griev- them as they deserved...
...In the process in modern literature last summer...
...You have to be an advanced for a master's degree the university offers in reader to feel confident about your experience of gaps in a Japan...
...The title evokes It seeks to have a say and fall that of the Church of England's ordering of the liturgy for silent...
...Rather, I mention my intuitions about the McCarthy and Didion texts because I would not have been led to them had I been teaching in a familiar American context...
...What does it mean to belong to schools such as PresA Comprehensive World History...
...Originally the individual chap- its own terms and deepters appeared as self-contained sketches and stories in the ens our understanding of New Yorker...
...And, beacters said or did things that surprised them, things quite dif- cause he too is embedded in that culture, he stands a chance ferent from what persons in Japan might have said or done in of learning something of value about himself...
...well-to-do California matron who sees her empty life transHer eyes flashy, glassy and dark...
...And I might have We learn that secret only when Gussie's sister, Rose, dies continued missing it, too, if I had not sensed a large gap in and Gussie expresses her grief in terrible, almost inhuman their response, a gap I needed to close up if I were to serve howling...
...Well, I think I learned a little "silence, exile, and cunning," sees in the figure of the Jew a about religious reading...
...I learned, willyhelp them with their English...
...I imagined that the Japanese students would experience many such moments in reading the works I had assigned...
...ed so openly when here own husband had died or when her I continue to be interested in those moments when we or daughter Tess, Mary's mother, had perished while still a our students show ourselves to have tin ears...
...Coming across passages like the one about Miss Brodie mistaking herself for the God of Calvin, one of my students Robert Rowl saw that religion was at least as important as gender issues in The Catholic Martyrs of the this novel...
...Japan's feudal lords worried that Christianity would induce their vassals to transfer ulti- "Packed with fascinating facts and written in mate allegiance from them to God...
...McCarthy's mem- mentalist Christianity on oir was not written all at once...
...From the divine 0-8245-1841-1 15.95 pb point of view, outside human space and time, all human activities have the quality of parody...
...Yet Didion's novel does not seem, on the face of it, to have any religious content...
...At one point she has a character say that Miss Brodie's Intellect of Grace moral obliquity in pushing one of her girls, now a teen-ager, Edited by Martin Andic to become the lover of the school's art teacher has its origin in Foreword by Annie Finch Miss Brodie's mistaking herself for the God of Calvin...
...The se- those moments often occur in the reading of literary texts cret, it's clear, is that the Prestons have never been as real to containing explicit religious ideas and hard-to-detect reliGussie as her own sister, blood of her own Jewish blood...
...good times brought suspicion...
...tianity and Judaism, Christians and Jews, you lose much of the If we ask how this may bear on Mary McCarthy's self-nar- force of Mary McCarthy's characterization of Gussie Morrative of rebellion against her Catholic past, the answer, I ganstern...
...It was the religious dimenOverall, she is mysterious, a woman with a secret...
...The corresponding lack of knowledge 0-8245-1832-2 $16.95 192 pages/pb was clear not only in my students' reaction to Muriel Spark but also in their blank response to the Catholic material in Mary THE CROSSROAD PUBLISHING COMPANY McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood...
...A recluse, she wore a veil in public to hide the scars from mentalist Baptist coma disastrously unsuccessful facelift...
...as well as money) they had gone to in making their very long If my experiment in literary anthropology did not lead me journey...
...The grown-up McCarthy will become a scourge of bourgeois respectability, including its religious versions...
...I was wrong...
...Steve Wilson But I won't argue the point here...
...El Commonweal 14 May 5, 2000...
...She dies soon after, and Sandy, consumed by guilt, enters a convent...
...GOD A N L) Friends of God and This was especially true for Muriel Spark's comic masterProphets I' R U 1' 1 I E I S A Feminist Theological Reading of the piece, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie...
...I found myself teaching I wanted some things for myself as well...
...But the memoirist The Christian Science has special uses for her...
...RELIGION & THE MODERN NOVEL What my Japanese students helped me see Mark Krupnick have spent the last two summers teaching Eng- ness of their own impressions...
...On balance, as Sandy only belatedly At yrrur bookstore or call 1-800-395-0690...
...comes to understand, Miss Brodie's part in the sentimental education of her girls is positive...
...I thought the assigned texts, nilly, that my students were deeply acculturated to certain which included Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Western ideas and values-McDonald's and high tech make Mary McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, and Joan us kin-but tone-deaf on other wavelengths...
...And what is the Historical surveys of eighteen politi- meaning to be a Catholic nun...
...This is a fascinating, Still, there is some bravura writing in McCarthy's book...
...Among the several virtues Miss Brodie Continuum The Continuum International Publishing Group lacks-being a Calvinist bluestocking is plainly responsible` Continuum www.continuumbooks.com 800-561-7704 are objectivity, impersonality, and a sense of the comic finiteness of human beings...
...cal regimes under which martyr- A crucial question, inasmuch as Sandy, Miss Brodie's fadom occurred, including the USSR vorite disciple and destined to become a nun, plays Judas by and Latin America...
...Gussie, whose primary ac- ference it may make to teach familiar British and American tivity is looking after her body and making her daily tour of texts on my students' home turf...
...And yet, I would argue, there are religious inklings, fragments, or seedlings of redemption, amidst this wasteland...
...Of course, gregation in communion by way of public prayer, hymns, the child can hardly have been fully aware of the basis of her ritual, and ceremony, you will miss the force of her novel's degrandmother's appeal for her...
...tone-deafness at certain levels...
...1-414 N w Releases...
...of Gussie's attitudes makes her sound as banal as any other -Linda L. Giedl, adult character in Mary McCarthy's world...
...I had ly to learn much about foreigners and their culture by teacha specifically literary way by which I thought I might arrive at ing British and American literature to people from other couna kind of anthropological knowledge...
...Set in the years of the like a rabbit sighted within descent of the anti-Vietnam War movement into the mindthe thick summer growth...
...a voice parched from floating I might offer a similarly religiously oriented interpretation so far and unbodied in air...
...Drarmuid O'llh irchu If Sandy is the Judas among Miss Brodie's schoolgirl disReligion in Exile ciples, that would seem to imply that Miss Brodie is a Christ An inspiring contribution to the figure...

Vol. 127 • May 2000 • No. 9


 
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