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  • Andrew Tate, Marilynne Robinson

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“Homesick for a place I never left”: Marilynne Robinson, Democracy and the Mystery of American Belonging through the post-Christian eyes of Millennial Brits

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Publication date7/04/2022
Host publicationContemporary American Fiction in the European Classroom : Teaching and Texts
EditorsLaurence W. Mazzeno, Sue Norton
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783030941666
ISBN (Print)9783030941659
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This chapter explores the challenges of teaching Gilead (2004) by Marilynne Robinson to British undergraduates. Robinson is a writer whose work wrestles and recuperates the apparently contradictory legacies of Puritan and Transcendentalist thought. The chapter argues that the intellectual generosity embodied in Robinson’s work is subversive and a crucial challenge to contemporary British sensibilities. It also endorses Amy Hungerford’s view that ‘[Robinson’s] novels imagine belief made capacious, and aim to show us behavior within the life of belief that can heal both family and Republic’ (2010). The theological richness of her writing offers a particular pedagogical challenge in an apparently post-Christian culture, one in which it can no longer be taken for granted that biblical tropes will be recognized or be regarded as meaningful, especially for a contemporary European readership born in the late twentieth or early twenty-first century. Robinson’s ‘Gilead’ narrative sequence emphasizes the validity of embracing the mystery of everyday life and might be read as a distinctively American defense of liberalism and religious tolerance. In The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998), Robinson observes that “[d]emocracy is profoundly collaborative. It implies a community. It seems to me we have almost stopped using the word in a positive sense.” The chapter explores the challenges of addressing questions of religious belief, selfhood and race in contemporary fiction and in the context of twenty-first-century British Higher Education.