Best known for a trilogy of historical novels set in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, Marilynne Robinson is a prolific essayist, teacher, and public speaker, routinely celebrated as a singular author of contemporary American fiction. This collection intervenes in the author’s growing critical reputation, pointing to new and exciting links between the author, the historical settings of her novels, and the contemporary themes of her fictional, educational, and theoretical work. Touching on ongoing debates in race, gender, and environmental politics, as well as education, democracy, and the state of critical theory, New Perspectives on Marilynne Robinson demonstrates the wider secular and popular impact of the author’s work, building on the largely theological focus of previous criticism to suggest new and innovative interpretations of her oeuvre. The collection’s four sections are dedicated to: Robinson’s use of form and style; her exploration of the relationship between gender and the environment; her use of history and the intersection of race, rights, and religion in her work; and a discussion of Robinson and her contemporaries. As such, the collection argues for a reconsideration of Robinson within the field of American and English Studies, by bringing together 16 new, vibrant, and undoubtedly contemporary analyses of her work. Authors include: Bridget Bennett, Richard King, Sarah Churchwell, Jack Baker, Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo, Daniel King, Anna Maguire Elliott, Makayla Steiner, Lucy Clarke, Christopher Lloyd, Tessa Roynon, Alexander Engebretson, Emily Hammerton-Barry, Steve Gronert Ellerhoff, Kathryn E. Engebretson, Paul Jenner, and Rachel Sykes."
After returning to her childhood house to look after her dying father, Glory Boughton, the central character of MarilynneRobinson's Home (2008), ruminates on its meanings and significances: ‘What does it mean to come home?’ (106). In the past, Glory ‘dreamed of a real home for herself and the babies,’ that would be ‘different from this good and blessed and fustian and oppressive tabernacle’ (107). The way in which Robinson's adjectives slide from good to oppressive highlights the fusion of complex emotions at the heart of Glory
Critics have repeatedly noted references to nineteenth-century literature in MarilynneRobinson's writing; as Martha Ravits explains, her work adapts ‘American literary romanticism and nineteenth-century prototypes to twentieth-century womanhood’ (645). This criticism has tended to focus on allusions to transcendentalist writing in Robinson's fiction and, in particular, her revision of a male American myth of individualism.
However, while Robinson's work explores an Emersonian model of self
Rachel Sykes, Jennifer Daly, and Anna Maguire Elliot
following observation about her public image:
Recently I read a brief overview of myself and my work, an article on the Internet. It said that if someone were bioengineered to personify unhipness, the result would be MarilynneRobinson. The writer listed the qualities that have earned me this distinction – I am in my seventies, I was born in Idaho, I live in Iowa, I teach in a public university, and I am a self-professed Calvinist. Ah, well. I will only grow older, I am happy in Iowa, and my religion is
The contributions in this section were originally presented as part of a roundtable discussion at the MarilynneRobinson Symposium at Nottingham Trent University in 2016. As a result of the wide-ranging conversation sparked among delegates, the editors invited the speakers to summarise their contributions for inclusion in this collection.
I. Cultural amnesia, dark prophecies, and MarilynneRobinson's Gilead novels
Despite regularly being hailed by critics for their
Bereavement, time, and home spaces in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Home
disciplines impinges on literary studies – which continues to favour psychoanalytic or poststructuralist approaches to loss – and literary critical research, as well as literary texts, are rarely if ever referred to in mainstream bereavement literature.
Against this tradition, I suggest that MarilynneRobinson's fiction posits a highly legitimate, though under-recognised, source of emotional epistemology about the felt realities of grief.
Freud had not been bereaved when he wrote his seminal essay. His
Enacting feminine alterity in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping
Makayla C. Steiner
measure or totalise it. Consequently, it is more productive to observe the strengths and weaknesses of the process by which feminine alterity creates a habitable dwelling not by testing it against alternative philosophical or theoretical perspectives, but against the density of lived experience of women, in fact, as embodied in a novel about women's lives and relationships. There are few contemporary novels that fit this description as neatly as MarilynneRobinson's Housekeeping (1980). The novel is particularly suited as a test case for the functions and limits of
Archive fever and the Gilead novels of Marilynne Robinson
Daniel Robert King
Previous scholarship on MarilynneRobinson's fiction has drawn attention to the significance of homes and home-spaces for her characters, and to the importance of truth and truth-telling in her work.
Yet, so far, these two important strands of criticism have not come together. Through its close examination of the houses and home-spaces that Robinson depicts in her novels, this essay seeks to bridge that gap. To do so, I deploy three Derridean terms, ‘archive fever’, ‘logocentrism’, and
Robinson as professor and defender of ‘America’s best idea’
Steve Gronert Ellerhoff and Kathryn E. Engebretson
MarilynneRobinson's nonfiction has drawn critical engagement, whether for her writings on Calvinism or her apologia for Oliver Cromwell.
Yet, as a public intellectual who also worked as a professor, her essayed stance on higher education – peppered throughout essays published between 2013 and 2017 – has been relatively ignored.
When read with the work of scholars including Nel Noddings and Michael Apple, an interdisciplinary
In what follows I trace productive affinities between arguments and ideas in MarilynneRobinson's essays and novels and questions of scepticism and the ordinary explored in Stanley Cavell's philosophical improvisations. At first glance, sufficient broad similarities emerge to encourage reading Cavell alongside Robinson: their shared preoccupations with transcendentalism and with Shakespeare, for instance, or their exceptionalist sounding claims about American culture as neglectful of its intellectual and cultural achievements. It might be felt