Beyond the Story
American Literary Fiction and the Limits of Materialism
212 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Hardcover | 9780268106256 | October 2019
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268106287 | October 2019
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268106270 | October 2019
Beyond the Story: American Literary Fiction and the Limits of Materialism argues that theology is crucial to understanding the power of contemporary American stories. By drawing on the theories of M. M. Bakhtin, Christian personalism, and contemporary phenomenology, Lake argues that literary fiction activates an irreducibly personal intersubjectivity between author, reader, and characters. Stories depend on a dignity-granting valuation of the particular lives of ordinary people, which is best described as an act of love that mirrors the love of the divine. Through original readings of the fiction of Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Lydia Davis, Toni Morrison, and others, Lake enters into a dialogue with postsecular theory and cognitive literary studies to reveal the limits of sociobiology’s approach to culture. The result is a book that will remind readers how storytelling continually reaffirms the transcendent value of human beings in an inherently personal cosmos.
This book will be of interest to students and scholars of theology and literary studies, as well as a broad audience of readers seeking to engage on a deeper level with contemporary literature.
Christina Bieber Lake is the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College. She is the author of a number of books, including Prophets of the Posthuman: American Fiction, Biotechnology, and the Ethics of Personhood (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), winner of the Aldersgate Prize and the Catholic Press Association Book Award for Faith and Science.
"A fine study of several important works of American fiction framed by a nuanced discussion of materialism in which the author seeks to determine its limitations. It is engagingly written and is based on wide and judicious reading in philosophy, theology, and neuroscience as well as literary criticism (including recent literary criticism that takes cognitive approaches to literature)." —Kevin Hart, Edwin B Kyle Professor of Christian Studies, University of Virginia~Kevin Hart, Edwin B Kyle Professor of Christian Studies, University of Virginia
"In her award-winning Prophets of the Posthuman, Lake drew on American fiction to critique a posthumanist anthropology. In the present volume she broadens that earlier work, suggesting that a theological anthropology underlies the writing and reading of all stories." —Choice
"It is a mark of the importance of Christina Bieber Lake's book that while I found it relatively easy to think of books that it challenges in fundamental ways, I found it more difficult to think of works comparable to it. Lake's book is more ambitious and likely to have a much larger readership because the examples and the theories that it takes up are more wide-ranging and less necessarily confined to a historical moment. It is evident that her argument 'could be extended to different genres, cultures, and periods,' as she acknowledges in her introduction." —Thomas F. Haddox, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
“Christina Bieber Lake’s thesis is bold: that a godless metaphysical naturalism cannot adequately explain the nature of human persons as storytelling agents. Christian theism carries far greater explanatory power, rooted, as it is, in a God of attentive love. This is the kind of book that will jolt us out of lazy assumptions that are ever more pervasive in our culture. Thought-provoking and strongly recommended.” —Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A Langford Distinguished Professor of Theology, Duke University
"Christina Bieber Lake's readings and reflections in this book exemplify 'acts of loving attention.' By retrieving the personalist imagination that animates all true storytelling, she not only illuminates contemporary writers in surprising ways, but clearly and convincingly counters the naturalistic assumptions that are rife in contemporary cultural discourse. I will return to her book often." —Paul J. Contino, Pepperdine University
"[Bieber Lake] provides creative readings of fictional works for scholars of twentieth and twenty-first-century literature. She ultimately presents a compelling case for the persistent relevance of religion to literature and astutely urges scholars of literature to think more deeply about the metaphysical motivations behind literary works and the transcendent effects of literature." —Modern Fiction Studies
"Christina Bieber Lake challenges the materialist explanation for the purposes and effects of literature. . . . Lake argues that only theology offers an adequate explanation for the pleasure we receive from creating and admiring art." —Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies