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This book generates a critical framework through which to interrogate the way in which religious feminists have employed women's literature in their texts. This is in order that both the way we read literature and the literature we read might be subject to scrutiny, and that new reading practices be developed. Having both the critical and constructive agenda, this is a book in two parts. The first part locates the study of the use of women's writing by religious feminists in a much wider frame than has previously been attempted. In the past individual religious feminists have been criticised, often publicly and loudly, for the use they have made of particular literary texts. Having critically surveyed previously unacknowledged constraints under which religious feminists read women's literature, the second part of the book explores how the work of women poststructuralist thinkers and theorists can enrich the reading practices. It offers alternative models for an engagement between literature and theology. Julia Kristeva is best known within the academy for her unorthodox application of Lacanian theory to contemporary culture. Her work challenges religious feminists to reassess the utilitarian approaches to literary texts and enquire into whether these might have a more powerful political role when their status as literature is recognised and affirmed. The book elucidates Luce Irigaray's thinking on sexual difference and also demonstrates its significance for feminist religious readers.

many feminists, in particular many religious feminists, have responded with caution and distaste to this critical movement, believing that it threatens those things they cherish and hold most dear. As literature occupies a very special place in feminist theological thinking we should not be surprised to discover that there has been a particular resistance to bringing poststructuralist insights to the reading of women’s texts (see, for example, Ostriker, 1993: 115). This chapter examines how the threat of poststructuralism has been constructed in feminist thinking and

in Literature, theology and feminism
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Introduction The purpose of this book is to generate a critical framework through which to interrogate the way in which religious feminists have employed women’s literature in their texts. This is in order that both the way we read literature and the literature we read might be subject to scrutiny, and that new reading practices be developed. This process will reveal how conventional understandings of the relation between literature and theology have been reproduced within feminist scholarship in ways that now merit critical attention. It will also expose the

in Literature, theology and feminism

therefore not examined. I hope to challenge religious feminists to reassess the way they read literature and what literature they read. I want the politics of reading to become a matter of concern to the many religious feminists who use literature as a vital resource in their theological work. With this reconstructive agenda firmly in mind this first chapter will set out to shift the frame in which religious feminists view the relations between literary and theological texts. In the past we have tended unconsciously to assume continuity between feminist theological

in Literature, theology and feminism

undertaken again and again while this discourse continues to exercise its violent power over women. Irigaray writes that she situates herself in the borders of culture and moves in and out like a partisan. This is a guerrilla fighter’s reading strategy. There is no decisive battle in the open air but a constant struggle in the undergrowth to reclaim the beloved territory. This imagery accurately reflects the situation of religious feminists engaging with established traditions. It is a context in which small skirmishes are the expression of our resistance. Irigaray does

in Literature, theology and feminism
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alerted us to the disruptive potential of the repressed feminine partner within the binary system which characterises Western culture. There is now instability in the coupling of literature and theology, which reflects a changing social and symbolic order. Religious feminists have been quick to recognise that women’s literature can be strategically placed in opposition to the paternal authority of religious, tradition, and this creative move has been of decisive significance in the development of feminist theology – as my readings of Christ, Ostriker, Cannon and Sands

in Literature, theology and feminism

CHAPTER 3 Beyond the one and the other Katie Cannon and black womanist ethics Every-other-woman In the work of Christ and Ostriker the female voice, speaking through literature, testifies to an alternative spiritual wisdom based upon women’s experience. In the works of other religious feminists, however, women’s literature is prized because of the diversity of understandings it contains and the many tongues with which it speaks. Literature is contrasted with theology not because the one is female writing and the other male writing, but rather because theology

in Literature, theology and feminism

CHAPTER 2 Visions and revisions Carol Christ and women on the spiritual quest Losing innocence In the previous chapter I set out to occupy a different vantage point from which to view the relation between literature and theology from those that have been favoured by feminist theologians in the past. In so doing it was my intention to locate an examination of the use of women’s writing in feminist theology in a much wider frame than usual. When surveying the various approaches to literature within the work of religious feminists it soon becomes apparent that

in Literature, theology and feminism

, religion and the feminine, but I have made clear that her journey has taken her in very different directions from those followed by religious feminists whose work was discussed in chapters 2 and 3. Up till now few religious feminists have taken up Kristeva’s thinking as a significant resource. Well-founded suspicions concerning the gendered terms of Lacanian critical theory have been sufficient to discourage most of us from engaging with work that often appears deeply complicit with the powers of horror ranged against women. However, I wish to argue that Kristeva does

in Literature, theology and feminism
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Reading Elizabeth Smart

this book my own ‘religious reading’ of the work of Elizabeth Smart – an author with whom I have been in love for many years. I am playing in this space. I do not intend what follows to serve as a pattern or template that other religious feminists should follow. There should never be a ‘correct’ way of reading literature – just lots of good and interesting ones. Nevertheless, I would claim that the new agenda for reading that I have set out in this book frees me to bring the work of Smart into dialogue with feminist theology. For it must be admitted that she is a

in Literature, theology and feminism