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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."

Robinson as professor and defender of ‘America’s best idea’
Steve Gronert Ellerhoff and Kathryn E. Engebretson

contextualisation of Robinson's ideas reveals, on the one hand, consilience in her claims of community's importance and, on the other, warnings against her habit of idealising American universities. In this essay, Robinson's experience as an academic on short-term contracts and her tenure at the Iowa WritersWorkshop – by which she made a living, drawing benefits and ultimately an Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System pension – will be considered. Juxtaposing her own words and writings with reflections from those who studied with her and work by the most important educational

in Marilynne Robinson
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Jason Jacobs

’ve interrupted his dinner, he’s been very gracious, and I say that, and he looks me in the eye and says, ‘Understand, David. I don’t give a shit who writes and who doesn’t.’ In other words, if you, David are soliciting from me, ‘Oh you must, I ain’t gonna say that, because that’s up to you.’42 Of course, Milch did become a writer, and persevered with The Groundlings at the Iowa WritersWorkshop where he went after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Yale. In so far as Milch was taking his father’s advice and following a wise guide, it is hard to imagine a better one for someone

in David Milch
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Rachel Sykes, Jennifer Daly, and Anna Maguire Elliot

despite – or perhaps because of – retiring from the Iowa WritersWorkshop in May 2016, she devotes more time to political writing and public conversation. In February 2018, Robinson published What Are We Doing Here? , a collection of public lectures written to expose what she described as the ‘essential ways we share false assumptions’ (1). With more sustained attention to the present than ever before, Robinson describes a widespread intellectual cynicism, highlighting a lack of intellectual rigour in arguments on the right and left of the political spectrum and

in Marilynne Robinson
Rachel Sykes

3 Quiet in time and narrative In 2005, Marilynne Robinson’s epistolary novel, Gilead (2004), won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Five years later, Robinson’s former student Paul Harding received the same prize for his debut novel, Tinkers (2009). According to Harding, many publishers rejected Tinkers before Bellevue Literary Press finally distributed it in 2009. Perceived as ‘just another graduate of the Iowa WritersWorkshop with a quiet little novel’, publishers informed Harding that there was no readership for what they described as ‘a slow, contemplative

in The quiet contemporary American novel
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Rachel Sykes

been rejected by many publishers before it was finally distributed by Bellevue Literary Press, with Harding receiving feedback that he was ‘just another graduate’ of the Iowa WritersWorkshop with a ‘quiet little novel’ he wanted to publish.15 In certain circles, quiet remains a buzzword for unmarketable, unfashionable and unprofitable fiction. When Harding published Enon as a ‘partner’ novel to Tinkers in 2013, reviewers again read its quiet prose with suspicion. Harding’s second novel is set in the same world as Tinkers and is named after the tiny village in which

in The quiet contemporary American novel
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Jason Jacobs

tradition of selling out his talent. Nonetheless, my claim is that his works do indeed belong in that tradition. How this was given the opportunity to form and flourish requires that we locate Milch in his time and place. He was born in Buffalo, New York State in 1945, in a comfortable setting (his father was a surgeon), before attending Yale to study literature, and gaining a Master of Fine Arts as a graduate of the Iowa WritersWorkshop under the tutelage of, among others, Richard Yates and Kurt Vonnegut. Publishing poetry in the 1970s, he also worked as a research

in David Milch
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Jason Jacobs

that Milch has carefully established helps this, in which gestures and stomach upsets are noticed by those whose profession is precisely to notice details, especially of behaviour, as indexes of motive and interior intent. The inner narrating voices that one finds in Henry James and other novelists is not available in the same way to those writing for film or television, except awkwardly (although it can be done with skill as in Alfie [dir. Gilbert, 1965]). Milch provides access to interiority in a way that was inherited from his training at the Iowa Writers

in David Milch