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P o stm o d ern B e lief: A m erican Literature an d R e lig io n since 1960 by Am y H ungerford Princeton, N J: Princeton University Press, 2010.

224 pages

Steven Belletto

Am y H ungerfords Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion since i9 6 0 m ounts an am bitious and im portant intervention into the study o f postwar A m erican literature and culture. H ungerford draws together two seem ingly unrelated strains, postm odernism and religious belief, to show how a late-twentieth-century belief in m eaninglessness becam e a significant form o f religious belief in an increasingly secular, irrevocably pluralistic world. As she explains in her introduction, This b o ok will argue that a century and a half later [after E m er son], with religious critique so firm ly a part o f our secular con dition, belief w ithout m eaning becom es both a way to maintain religious b elief rather than critique its institutions and a way to buttress the authority o f the literature that seeks to im agine such belief. B e lief w ithout content becom es . . . a hedge against the inescapable fact o f pluralism. (xiii) Hungerford thereby sidesteps more familiar accounts o f literature as either em bodying or condem ning religious belief in order to theorize how be lief in m eaninglessness may tell a different story about postwar literature and culture. Hungerford looks at numerous works o f literature and literary and critical theory, and she ranges over D errida and de M an (both key thinkers for her first book, A Holocaust of Texts) with the same confidence she displays when recontextualizing the N ew Critics or noting a renewed interest in the literariness o f the Bible in the 1970s and 1980s; she offers similarly nuanced readings o f writers such as J. D. Salinger, Allen Ginsberg, C orm ac M cCarthy, Toni M orrison , and M arilynne R obin so n , am ong others. In each o f these cases, H ungerfords m ethod is to place a w ork o f literature or theory in new contexts, inventively reframing the work o f individual writers in order to demonstrate the im portance o f belief in meaninglessness as a frame for understanding postwar A m erican writing. T hose com ing to the b o ok with backgrounds in critical theory may be m ost interested in how the argum ent reconfigures the relationship

Twentieth-Century Literature 58.1

Spring 2012

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Steven Belletto between A m erican literary and cultural production, and the postm odern. There was a time w hen postm odernism was seen as broadly apolitical, as turning inward rather than radiating out. Foundational w ork by Ihab Hassan, Brian M cH ale, and others em phasized postm odernism s formal ingenuity and obsession with language, while later critics read it in eco nom ic (Jameson) or political (Hutcheon) lights. Postmodern Belief partici pates in the sort o f historicist recontextualization pursued by M arianne D eK oven in Utopia Limited :The Sixties and the Emergence of the Postmodern (2004), which links the developm ent o f postm odernism to sixties radi calism. H ungerford investigates the underexplored resonances between postm odern impulses and late-tw entieth-century religious belief, chal lenging our standard accounts o f postm odernism by dem onstrating how sincerity overshadows irony as a literary m ode when the ambi guities o f language are im agined as being religiously empowered. Writers in this m ode see fracture and materialism not as ends in themselves but as the conditions for transcendence. Cultural embeddedness in the panoply o f American religious contexts comes to matter as much as transhistorical (or posthistorical) aes thetics even for the most formally ambitious o f writers. (xix-xx) T h e varieties o f religious experience H ungerford has in m ind turn out to have everything to do with language, for A m erican w riters turn to religion to im agine the purely form al elements o f language in transcen dent term s (xiii). Postmodern Belief exam ines various w riters and critical theorists with two aims: to show how b elief in meaninglessness confers religious authority upon the literary, and . . . to show how such belief, and its literary vehicles, becom es im portant to the practice o f religion in A m erica (xv). Chapter O ne, Believing in Literature, begins with a great riff on D w ight Eisenhowers vague faith as epitom izing Am erican religious belief in the 1950s, then turns to Salingers Franny and Zooey, w hich according to H ungerford enacts the perform ance o f sacred hum an speech (14) in a religious vision that insists upon the specific content o f religious w isdom but finds that content converging in a space o f n o-know ledge (12). From Salinger, H ungerford traces a fascinating line through N ew C riticism to deconstruction to suggest how both invest literature with a kind o f religious significance. For the N ew Critics, she reminds us,

160

Review one im portant fact about literary texts and especially, about poem s was that they could not be paraphrased, that their form carried with it som e unspecifiable, or unspeakably particular, literary quality that transcended pedestrian content. T h e N ew Critical poem qua poem is form w ithout content im agined as transcendence. This bid for transcendence reproduces [Matthew] A rn olds effort to make literature a substitute for religion, and is neatly encapsulated in Cleanth B ro okss notion o f the heresy o f paraphrase. (16) T he elegant formulation heresy o f paraphrase is useful for H ungerfords purposes because she wants to demonstrate not only how writers like Salinger im agined literature as having a special religious capacity, but also that critical theorists as different as Brooks and D errida explored this idea in varying ways: Language in their [D erridas and de M an s] hands becom es im m anent in m uch the same way that the names o f G o d are im agined to contain G o d s presence in H indu and in Jewish tradition and in the way Christ is said, in the Gospel o f Joh n , to incarnate the divine W ord (19). For H ungerford, then, the heart o f the matter is that the power o f language and in some cases the very materiality o f the Word is its pow er to be mystical. As she shows in the rest o f the book, w riters from Allen Ginsberg to C o rm ac M cC arthy view their w riting as related in som e way to religious belief, as pervaded by what she som etim es calls a num inous quality (83, 84, 86, 138). Ginsberg in fact provides H ungerfords first object lesson, and she devotes a w hole chapter, Supernatural Form alism in the Sixties, to his poetry and politics, especially as they developed after he returned from India in 1963. In India Ginsberg engaged deeply with H indu and B u d dhist meditative practices, and in a section called T h e Politics o f O m , we learn how he appropriated the theory underlying H indu chanting, which supposes that mantras themselves are im bued with mystical m ean ing that goes far beyond their semantic content, to develop a poetics that invests words themselves with spiritual power (hence G insbergs desire to make M antra o f A m erican language now ). H ungerford first illustrates this point through a masterful reading o f G insbergs testimony and crossexam ination during the C hicago Seven Trial, in which Abbie H offm ann, Jerry R u b in , Tom Hayden, and others were accused o f intending to in cite a riot at the 1968 D em ocratic N ational Convention. Ginsberg was called to testify because the prosecuting attorney, T hom as Foran, viewed

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Steven Belletto him as kind o f the Y ippie religious leader (quoted on 29), and wanted to demonstrate that G insbergs frequent recourse to chanting was part o f a repugnant and sexually perverted hippie religious practice (30). As Foran attempted to prove the perversions o f the O m chant, he connected it to G insbergs poetry; yet G insbergs responses show, in contrast, that he endeavored to write poem s that aim (in theory, at least) to evacuate the kind o f referential content that proved so useful to Foran. In doing so, G insberg uses the kinship between poetry and chant to advance an idea o f poetry that moves beyond m eaning into . . . a fantasy o f supernatural efficacy centered on the pow er o f soun d (31). T h e idea that a fantasy o f supernatural efficacy centered on the power o f sound had currency am ong the counter-culture o f the 1960s is familiar to anyone w ho has listened to G eorge H arrisons All Things Must Pass (1970) or the recording o f the Hare Krishna M antra he produced the year before, but H ungerford takes this observation a few steps further. H er larger point is not that Ginsberg ought to be read as a religious writer (which others have done in m ore depth; the m ost thoroughgoing recent exam ple is Tony T rigilios Allen Ginsberg's Buddhist Poetics), but rather that the way G insberg im agined his poetry as spiritual, in the context o f the trial and in the years leading up to it, reveals a set o f beliefs about language and the supernatural that have remarkable affinities with, and also raise a challenge to, understandings o f language em anating from other sectors o f A m erican culture in the sixties. ...G insbergs spiritual poetry intersects with beliefs about lan guage com m on to poststructuralism . . . and to a popular form o f religious renewal that transform ed A m erican churches during the sixties and seventies....His use o f a supernatural form alism for political purposes . . . demonstrates, further, the social and philosophical implications o f the conjunction between religious b elief and language upon which his work relies. (28-29) T he popular form o f religious renewal that Hungerford describes is the Charismatic movement, which interests her because o f its ability to inten sify religious belief while still being open to a variety o f specific doctrinal content. This is relevant for understanding Ginsberg and H ungerfords reading o f 1960s religious culture because it reflects the belief, as she says in reference to Alan Wattss ideas, that propositional content was the

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Review enemy o f true religious experien ce (44). In other words, for G insberg as for the Charism atics, the religious experience was the linguistic ex perience o f either chanting or speaking in tongues, an experience that is remarkably accom m odating to A m ericas entrenched pluralism and which in turn makes it possible to read political critique in G insbergs w ork in this strain. For exam ple, discussing a poem that wishes M erry Christm as to an apparently indiscriminate list o f political, cultural, and religious figures, H ungerford argues that the p o ets hail o f cosm ic good will evinces a political critique o f a peculiar kind, in keeping with the version o f pluralism on display in the Charism atic m ovem ent. It is cri tique that allows opposing voices to continue speaking and that does not argue against, seek to unite, or seek even to interpret, opposing points o f view (50-51). After leaving Ginsberg behind, H ungerford provides a chapter-length study o f D o n D eLillo, T h e Latin Mass o f Language. This chapter is especially interesting and, to my m ind, correct because it suggests that for too long D eL illos w ork has been conflated with the textbook postm odernism o f White Noise (1985).W hile White Noise is no doubt an achievement, and handy for A m erican novel surveys or postm odernism courses, H ungerford rightly suggests that it is atypical o f D eL illos larger career. For the m ost part, she argues, his w ork is invested in literatures im m anent transcendence in ways that do not exactly m irror Ginsbergs, but that make D eLillo look quite different from a cartoon postm odernist that blanches at any shred o f foundationalism . W hereas she reads Gins berg through his interest in H induism , H ungerford points to D eL illos Catholic background, which she invokes not to cast him as a religious w riter on the order o f Flannery O C on n or or Walker Percy, but rather to help explain how he ultimately transfers a version o f mysticism from the Catholic context into the literary on e (53). D eL illos novels, she claims, translate religious structures into literary ones w ithout an intervening secularism, a thing they can do because they im agine language in a way that preserves a specifically Catholic understanding o f transcendent expe rience while drifting far from Catholic traditions and themes. In order to elaborate what she means by a Catholic understanding o f transcendent experience, H ungerford reads D eL illo s novels within the context o f 1960s controversies about whether mass should be held in Latin or the vernacular. In H ungerfords account, one argument against the vernacular mass was that the Catholic religious experience was centered not on the

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Steven Belletto between Am erican literary and cultural production, and the postm odern. There was a time w hen postm odernism was seen as broadly apolitical, as turning inward rather than radiating out. Foundational w ork by Ihab Hassan, Brian M cH ale, and others em phasized postm odernism s formal ingenuity and obsession with language, while later critics read it in eco nom ic (Jameson) or political (Hutcheon) lights. Postmodern Belief partici pates in the sort o f historicist recontextualization pursued by M arianne D eK oven in Utopia Limited:The Sixties and the Emergence of the Postmodern (2004), which links the developm ent o f postm odernism to sixties radi calism. H ungerford investigates the underexplored resonances between postm odern impulses and late-tw entieth-century religious belief, chal lenging our standard accounts o f postm odernism by dem onstrating how sincerity overshadows irony as a literary m ode when the ambi guities o f language are imagined as being religiously empowered. Writers in this m ode see fracture and materialism not as ends in themselves but as the conditions for transcendence. Cultural embeddedness in the panoply o f American religious contexts comes to matter as much as transhistorical (or posthistorical) aes thetics even for the most formally ambitious o f writers. (xix-xx) T he varieties o f religious experience H ungerford has in m ind turn out to have everything to do with language, for A m erican w riters turn to religion to im agine the purely form al elements o f language in transcen dent term s (xiii). Postmodern Belief exam ines various w riters and critical theorists with two aims: to show how belief in meaninglessness confers religious authority upon the literary, and . . . to show how such belief, and its literary vehicles, becom es im portant to the practice o f religion in A m erica (xv). Chapter O ne, Believing in Literature, begins with a great riff on D w ight Eisenhowers vague faith as epitomizing Am erican religious belief in the 1950s, then turns to Salingers Franny and Zooey; which according to H ungerford enacts the perform ance o f sacred hum an speech (14) in a religious vision that insists upon the specific content o f religious w isdom but finds that content converging in a space o f n o-know ledge (12). From Salinger, H ungerford traces a fascinating line through N ew Criticism to deconstruction to suggest how both invest literature with a kind o f religious significance. For the N ew Critics, she reminds us,

160

Review one im portant fact about literary texts and especially, about poem s was that they could not be paraphrased, that their form carried with it som e unspecifiable, or unspeakably particular, literary quality that transcended pedestrian content. T h e N ew Critical poem qua poem is form w ithout content im agined as transcendence. This bid for transcendence reproduces [Matthew] A rn olds effort to make literature a substitute for religion, and is neatly encapsulated in Cleanth B ro ok ss notion o f the heresy o f paraphrase. (16) T h e elegant formulation heresy o f paraphrase is useful for H ungerfords purposes because she wants to demonstrate not only how w riters like Salinger im agined literature as having a special religious capacity, but also that critical theorists as different as Brooks and D errida explored this idea in varying ways: Language in their [D erridas and de M an s] hands becom es im m anent in m uch the same way that the names o f G o d are im agined to contain G o d s presence in H indu and in Jew ish tradition and in the way Christ is said, in the Gospel o f Joh n , to incarnate the divine W ord (19). For H ungerford, then, the heart o f the matter is that the power o f language and in som e cases the very materiality o f the Word is its pow er to be mystical. As she shows in the rest o f the book, writers from Allen Ginsberg to C o rm ac M cC arthy view their w riting as related in som e way to religious belief, as pervaded by what she som etim es calls a num inous quality (83, 84, 8 6 ,1 3 8 ). Ginsberg in fact provides H ungerfords first object lesson, and she devotes a w hole chapter, Supernatural Form alism in the Sixties, to his poetry and politics, especially as they developed after he returned from India in 1963. In India Ginsberg engaged deeply with H indu and B u d dhist meditative practices, and in a section called T h e Politics o f O m , we learn how he appropriated the theory underlying H indu chanting, which supposes that mantras themselves are im bued with mystical m ean ing that goes far beyond their semantic content, to develop a poetics that invests words themselves with spiritual power (hence G insbergs desire to make M antra o f A m erican language now ). H ungerford first illustrates this point through a masterful reading o f G insbergs testimony and crossexam ination during the C hicago Seven Trial, in which Abbie H offm ann, Jerry R u b in , Tom Hayden, and others were accused o f intending to in cite a riot at the 1968 D em ocratic N ational Convention. G insberg was called to testify because the prosecuting attorney, T hom as Foran, viewed

161

Steven Belletto him as kind o f the Y ippie religious leader (quoted on 29), and wanted to demonstrate that G insbergs frequent recourse to chanting was part o f a repugnant and sexually perverted hippie religious practice (30). As Foran attempted to prove the perversions o f the O m chant, he connected it to G insbergs poetry; yet G insbergs responses show, in contrast, that he endeavored to write poem s that aim (in theory, at least) to evacuate the kind o f referential content that proved so useful to Foran. In doing so, Ginsberg uses the kinship between poetry and chant to advance an idea o f poetry that moves beyond m eaning into . . . a fantasy o f supernatural efficacy centered on the pow er o f soun d (31). T h e idea that a fantasy o f supernatural efficacy centered on the power o f sound had currency am ong the counter-culture o f the 1960s is familiar to anyone w ho has listened to G eorge H arrisons All Things Must Pass (1970) or the recording o f the Hare Krishna M antra he produced the year before, but Hungerford takes this observation a few steps further. H er larger point is not that Ginsberg ought to be read as a religious writer (which others have done in m ore depth; the m ost thoroughgoing recent exam ple is Tony T rigilios Allen Ginsberg's Buddhist Poetics), but rather that the way Ginsberg im agined his poetry as spiritual, in the context o f the trial and in the years leading up to it, reveals a set o f beliefs about language and the supernatural that have remarkable affinities with, and also raise a challenge to, understandings o f language em anating from other sectors o f A m erican culture in the sixties. ...G insbergs spiritual poetry intersects with beliefs about lan guage com m on to poststructuralism . . . and to a popular form o f religious renewal that transform ed A m erican churches during the sixties and seventies. ...His use o f a supernatural form alism for political purposes . . . demonstrates, further, the social and philosophical im plications o f the conjunction between religious belief and language upon which his w ork relies. (28-29) T he popular form o f religious renewal that Hungerford describes is the Charismatic movement, which interests her because o f its ability to inten sify religious belief while still being open to a variety o f specific doctrinal content. This is relevant for understanding Ginsberg and H ungerfords reading o f 1960s religious culture because it reflects the belief, as she says in reference to Alan Wattss ideas, that propositional content was the

162

Review enemy o f true religious experien ce (44). In other words, for Ginsberg as for the Charism atics, the religious experience was the linguistic ex perience o f either chanting or speaking in tongues, an experience that is remarkably accom m odating to A m ericas entrenched pluralism and which in turn makes it possible to read political critique in G insbergs w ork in this strain. For exam ple, discussing a poem that wishes M erry Christm as to an apparently indiscriminate list o f political, cultural, and religious figures, H ungerford argues that the p o ets hail o f cosm ic good will evinces a political critique o f a peculiar kind, in keeping with the version o f pluralism on display in the Charism atic m ovem ent. It is cri tique that allows opposing voices to continue speaking and that does not argue against, seek to unite, or seek even to interpret, opposing points o f view (50-51). After leaving Ginsberg behind, H ungerford provides a chapter-length study o f D o n D eLillo, T h e Latin Mass o f Language. This chapter is especially interesting and, to my m ind, correct because it suggests that for too long D eL illo s work has been conflated with the textbook postm odernism o f White Noise (1985).W hile White Noise is no doubt an achievement, and handy for A m erican novel surveys or postm odernism courses, H ungerford rightly suggests that it is atypical o f D eL illos larger career. For the m ost part, she argues, his w ork is invested in literatures im m anent transcendence in ways that do not exactly m irror Ginsbergs, but that make D eLillo look quite different from a cartoon postm odernist that blanches at any shred o f foundationalism . W hereas she reads Gins berg through his interest in H induism , H ungerford points to D eL illos Catholic background, w hich she invokes not to cast him as a religious w riter on the order o f Flannery O C o n n or or Walker Percy, but rather to help explain how he ultimately transfers a version o f mysticism from the Catholic context into the literary on e (53). D eL illos novels, she claims, translate religious structures into literary ones w ithout an intervening secularism, a thing they can do because they im agine language in a way that preserves a specifically Catholic understanding o f transcendent expe rience while drifting far from Catholic traditions and themes. In order to elaborate what she means by a Catholic understanding o f transcendent experience, H ungerford reads D eL illos novels within the context o f 1960s controversies about w hether mass should be held in Latin or the vernacular. In H ungerfords account, one argument against the vernacular mass was that the Catholic religious experience was centered not on the

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Steven Belletto content o f the mass knowing what the words mean but on the sounds and experience o f the mass: For those w ho opposed the use o f Latin, lack o f com prehension was simply that and necessarily bad . . . [but] for those in favor o f the Latin, the barrier to understanding facilitated a mystical relation to the language, a relation that reinforced the transubstantial, incarnational logic o f other elements o f the m ass (57). Lest readers find such debates literally parochial, H ungerford connects them to som e m a jo r currents in 1960s thought, notably M arshall M cLuh an s oft-repeated dictum the m edium is the m essage after all, his idea was that the m odern m edia have their effects on A m erican culture not be cause o f what they say, but because o f how they say i t . ...M cL u hans analysis o f m edia and, secondarily, o f religion and liturgy, locates a mystical reality both within the m edia o f hum an co m m unication and also, importantly, beyond m edias com m unicative functions. (58) It is within this context that H ungerford analyzes D eL illo s novels principally Libra, Mao II, The Names , and Underworld to explore how a mystical understanding o f language (59) operates in them. For H ungerford, D eLillo shares with G insberg an interest in the materiality o f language (60), so that Mao II recuperates an analogy between the Latin mass and the novel that is accom plished by virtue o f the linguistic freedom D eLillo im agines can arise out o f the form ulae o f cult speech once fanatical beliefs have been replaced by the sheer capac ity for b e lie f (66). Likewise Underworld, w hose ending features not the atheist nuns o f White Noise but a nun whose embrace o f a mystical vision . . . is rewarded with a very C atholic-lookin g afterlife on the Internet (xx), exemplifies D eL illos broad question regarding the religious power o f lan guage: how religion that is abandoned in m ost respects can persist in a literary fo rm (74). Follow ing her close analysis o f the works o f G insberg and DeLillo, H ungerfords fourth chapter, T he Bible and Illiterature, first explores how debates about teaching the Bible in public schools foregrounded the idea that it could be variously interpretable. From there she notes the renewal o f interest in the Bible by m ajor literary critics in the 1970s and 1980s, and then offers readings o f C orm ac M cCarthy and Toni M orrison that demonstrate how they appropriate Biblical language to confer that num inous sense so hard to articulate in conventional terms. As she writes:

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Review In their dealings with the Bible, literary critics and novelists in this period w ork out the relationship between literature and the sacred in ways that make literature akin to scripture. To im agine literature as scripture is not the same as im agining it as supernaturally powerful on the m odel o f the H indu chant, as G insberg does, or as transcendent on the m odel o f the Latin mass, as D eL illo does, though all these impulses share a recognizable desire to connect the religious to the literary. (76) In w orking through these connections, H ungerford offers numerous m om ents o f insight, one o f the most compelling o f which concerns Frank K erm odes The Genesis of Secrecy (1979). As H ungerford writes, K erm ode postulates a herm eneutic practice revolving around the secrecy o f texts, a practice that always privileges latent over apparent m eaning (82). She connects this idea to Postmodern Beliefs larger claims about how the sa cred is m ade manifest in literature: For K erm ode, secrecy is what makes literature literary (83), an idea that links him to D eLillo because both find spiritual mystery at the heart o f the literary enterprise. Ultimately, then, The Genesis of Secrecy connects the Bible with m odern fiction through an interpretive m ode that is m ore num inous than ratio nal, that equates the business o f w riting m odern fiction with that o f w riting scripture, and that is driven by a late-twentiethcentury interest in opacity and latent m eaning. (84) Such m om ents stand am ong the surprising pleasures o f Postmodern Belief because they offer alternative explanations for the undeniably strident interest in opacity and latent m eaning we find in a range o f critical and literary texts o f the late twentieth century. This diversion through postwar literary criticism sets up the analyses o f M cC arthy and M orrison later in the chapter. After a brilliant reading o f a scene in M cC arth ys Child of God in which a blacksmith tells in detail how to form an axe-blade ( We have been shown, H ungerford writes, how to make som ething out o f words, how to forge som ething from the stubborn material o f language, from the obscure words, archaisms, and vocabularies o f technique that M cC arthy excavates here and throughout his w riting [88]), H ungerford moves on to Blood Meridian, the novel w hich secured M cC arth ys place in the postwar A m erican canon. Taking up the challenge o f those critics w ho see in the novels style som ething

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Steven Belletto close to nonsense, H ungerford argues that the meaninglessness o f its metaphysical and philosophical discourses . . . reveal [s] the counterintuitive way the novel aspires to the authoritative status o f scripture (90). A c cording to H ungerford, Blood Meridian is designed to make us feel, above all, like G o d is speaking___ This is Bible as style, as a tone o f authority as opposed to authoritative argument or history or supernatural claim (95). Blood Meridian has always been a head scratcher for m e personally, but Postmodern Belief has given me a new way o f understanding that book, if not a new appreciation for it som ething that is one o f the best things one can hope for from literary criticism. H ungerfords argum ent also helps explain why the supernatural has proven a recurring elem ent in M o rriso n s w riting. W orking through novels such as The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, H ungerford argues that the notion o f supernatural reading effaces the w ork o f the au thor, [while] at the same time the resulting mystification o f the author suggests an otherworldly expertise or access to the spiri tual....M orrison seeks to replace white possession o f the Bible, and its cultural and spiritual authority, with an authority based in the illiterates possession o f that sacred book, in the process m aintaining and, m ore importantly, deploying the ultimate privilege accorded to the Bible in W estern culture. (96) For readers w ho have w ondered how M o rriso n s ghosts and mystical happenings jib e with a postm odern sensibility, this argum ent turns her novels into another powerful exam ple o f H ungerfords general re-reading o f postm odernism . H er final chapter, T h e Literary Practice o f Belief, looks at writers invested in particular b elief (121).To this end, she examines M arilynne R o b in so n s Housekeeping, Gilead, and Home to show how discourses o f belief becom e religious practices, and how literature both the novel as a narrative form and various poetic structures [R obinson] uses within narrative com es to catalyze this com m union between approaches to religion currently held apart in scholarly w ork on religion. H ungerford holds R o b in so n s novels up against another, m ore popular way the lit erary has reimagine[d] b elief as practice, the best-selling Left Behind novels written by evangelical Christians T im LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins,

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Review which explicitly describe a post-R apture w orld with the ultimate aim o f w inning converts. B rin gin g together readings o f R obin so n and the Left Behind books offers a necessary com plication to H ungerfords argu m ent because it helps bring into focus how the Christian practitioner in A m erica . . . cannot live religiously w ithout on occasion trying to articulate that knowledge, insofar as articulating the know ledge is part o f the practice (112). In her b rie f conclusion, H ungerford reflects on what it means that her chosen w riters aim to reenchant the literary world, urging it away from rationality and realism even w hen w orking in realist m odes, insist ing on a species o f m eaning that is not reducible to historical context and cannot be fully perceived even by the m ost sublimely literate reader (132-33). This understanding o f literature w ould help us not only rethink the postm odern, but also question m ore generally how we value and evaluate literature as we w ork through the legacies o f postm odernism . Poststructuralism, H ungerford writes, questioned the literary artifact as such, the pow er o f the author, the metaphysical capacities o f literature, the grand narrative, and the possibility o f m eaning; the culture wars questioned the aesthetic and ideological assumptions assumed to underlie the traditional literary canon; the reading public, even that segm ent educated to appreciate m odernist literature, began to fall away from reading from reading books, at least. T h e writers I have considered here, both novelists and critics, seek a version o f liter ary authority closely allied to the ambitions o f m odernism to reveal in art the large-scale structures o f the world as well as the very texture o f consciousness, to make literature a secular reli gion and critics its priestly caste. (136) This account does the double duty o f reinvesting both literature and criticism with a signal im portance that is hard to describe a lingering difficulty that is part o f the point. In the course o f rethinking postm od ernism, proposing fresh readings o f key postwar writers, and arguing for a new conceptualization o f late-twentieth-century religious belief, Postmod ern Belief also tackles one o f the trickiest projects o f all, theorizing and then defending those slippery som ethings that make literature literary.

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Works cited
DeKoven, Marianne. Utopia Limited:The Sixties and the Emergence of the Postmodern. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. Hassan, Ihab. Paracriticisms: Seven Speculations of the Times. Urbana: U o f Illinois P, 1975. Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism, 2n d Edition. New York: Routledge, 2002. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism: or; The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991. McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. New York: Methuen, 1987. Trigilio,Tony. Allen Ginsberg's Buddhist Poetics. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2007.

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