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Literature and Theology Current Issue

Published: Wed, 31 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Wed, 31 May 2017 10:46:03 GMT


Introduction to Special Issue of Literature and Theology Grounding the Sacred in Literature and the Arts in Australia


The guest editors introduce the special issue, ‘Grounding the Sacred in Literature and the Arts in Australia’. Five of the articles in this issue originated from the conference: Grounding the Sacred in Literature and the Arts, held at Australian Catholic University, Sydney, 23–26 July 2015.

How the Sacred Appears: Poetry and the Dark One


Poetry does not simply ask ‘What?’ or ‘Why?’ It is deeply concerned with the question, ‘How?’, even if the question is not presented as a theme. God does not usually appear under the questions ‘What?’ and ‘Why?’ in poetry, and when he does it is usually in terms of the ‘supernatural attitude’. Yet God can appear in poems by way of a relation. It is not always the case that divine manifestation is overwhelming; sometimes it is as something that can easily be overlooked or bypassed.

Earth Song and Desert Art: Painted Literature from Sacred Ground


Like the travel memoirs of writers who have wandered the Songlines of the Australian desert under the guidance of indigenous custodians, Aboriginal desert art offers a window into the lyrical and sacred world of the Dreaming. The paintings of the EarthSong exhibition (Australian Catholic University, 2015) embody excerpts from the song-myth cycles of the Western Desert; using ceremonial iconography to portray the actions of Ancestral Beings at specific sites, they form maps of terrain and title deeds to country. An exploration of several of the exhibition’s paintings affords a sense of the beauty, drama and complexity of the song-myth cycles that underpin and connect all of the paintings in the collection.

Collaborations and Renegotiations: Re-examining the ‘Sacred’ in the Film-Making of David Gulpilil and Rolf de Heer


This article discusses the term ‘sacred’ in relation to the work of nineteenth-century sociologist Émile Durkheim, for whom the word denoted the objects, practices and assumptions that sustained communal solidarity and fostered dynamic energies, whether or not they were conventionally described as ‘religious’. I then turn to the work of more recent scholars of ‘critical religion’ suggesting that the terms ‘religion’ and ‘the sacred’ derive from a predominantly western, patriarchal and colonial context, forming part of a complex network of interconnected categories that represent a distinctive and dominant discourse of power constructing a privileged identity through hostile Othering or exclusions. Arguably, in the Australian mainstream, a discourse of ‘religion’ imported largely by Christian settlers from the west over the last two hundred years has been employed to exclude Aboriginal ways of understanding the world, for example by promoting the category of ‘land’ as an exploitable, God-given human possession. Nevertheless, drawing on the work of Julia Kristeva, I understand that an encounter with the Other—whether the Aboriginal or the balanda—can be viewed differently: as a zone of properly disturbing but also creative possibility. It remains very important, however, to acknowledge the power imbalances that are still embedded within such encounters, and the consequent risks to indigenous Australians, of further dislocation and dispossession. This idea is explored through a consideration of the collaborative film-making of David Gulpilil and Rolf de Heer and, in particular, of two films: Ten Canoes (2006) and Charlie’s Country (2013).

Music’s Multilayered Subversion of the Word


This article explores the polyvalent nature of musical meaning and its contribution to theological reflection in a hermeneutical key, from the perspective of two composers in dialogue about their music. Against an analytical theoretical backdrop drawn from both musicology and theology—Jean-Jacques Nattiez’s semiological tripartition method and Bernard Lonergan’s understanding of consciousness and intentional analysis—the article explores various aspects of the relationship between words and music from a theological perspective. The aim is to present and exemplify music’s contribution to the resonance and complexity of words and thought in theological discourse.

The First Night out of Eden: David Malouf’s Remembering babylon 1


This article focuses particularly upon David Malouf’s novel Remembering Babylon as it examines Malouf as a spiritual writer whose works explore the liminality of space in Australia and the boundaries between worlds, both real and literary. The article moves between the classical studies of John Keble and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger to establish the place of the sacramental in Malouf’s writings, a novelist and poet who bears comparison with the French poet Yves Bonnefoy.

Literature and Theology as Grammar of Ascent. By David Jasper


Literature and Theology as Grammar of Ascent. By JasperDavid. Farnham, Surrey/UK: Ashgate, 2016. 272pp. Hardback, £95.00. ISBN: 9781472475244.

Streets of Papunya: The Reinvention of Papunya Painting. By Vivien Johnson


Streets of Papunya: The Reinvention of Papunya Painting. By JohnsonVivien. Sydney: NewSouth Books, 2015. 240 pp. Paperback, AUD $49.99. ISBN: 9781742232430.

A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation. By Randy Fertel


A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation. By FertelRandy. New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal Books, 2015. XX + 500 pp. Paperback, £24.87.

Written in White: A Reading of Kevin Hart’s ‘Colloquies’


The poem ‘Colloquies’ by Australian poet Kevin Hart can be read as a literary elaboration of Rabbi Isaac the Blind's theory of divine white writing. ‘Colloquies’ finds white writing in the pages of God s three books—scripture, nature, and time—and depicts the difficulty of understanding and responding to this obscure mode of revelation. Hart appropriates a range of theological sources (including Augustine, Aquinas, Ignatius of Loyola, and G. M. Hopkins) and recasts these sources in light of Rabbi Isaac’s paradoxical theory in order to illuminate in poetry the perplexities of a life lived coram Deo.

Early Modern Catholics, Royalists, and Cosmopolitans, English Transnationalism and the Christian Commonwealth. By Brian C. Lockey


Early Modern Catholics, Royalists, and Cosmopolitans, English Transnationalism and the Christian Commonwealth. By LockeyBrian C.. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015. Pp. xi, 376. Hardback, £75.00. ISBN: 9781409418719.

Bidding the Animal Àdieu: Grace in J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals and Disgrace


J.M. Coetzee’s focus on animals in Disgrace and The Lives of Animals forces his readers to question the contours of their ethical frameworks, including the distinction between human and animal realms and whether animals must necessarily compete for imaginative space with human beings. I argue that Coetzee asks us to envision what effect human and animal interactions can have in the midst of trauma, and offers the idea of grace as a surprising, if tentative, answer.