Nationhood and Improvised Belief in American Fiction highlights the ways religious belief and practice intersect with questions of national belonging in the work of major contemporary writers. Through readings of novels by Louise Erdrich, Toni Morrison, Cristina García, and others, this book argues that the representations of syncretic, culturally hybrid, and improvised forms of religious practice operate in these novels as critiques of exclusionary constructions of national identity, providing models for alternate ways of belonging based on shared religious beliefs and practices. Rather than treating the religious history of the U.S. as one of increasing secularization, this book instead calls for greater attention to the diversity of religious experience in the U.S., as well as a deeper understanding of the ways in which these experiences can inform relationships to the national community.
Ann M. Genzale is assistant professor of English at Hostos Community College, City University of New York.
Introduction: Postsecularism and Contemporary American Fiction
Chapter 1: Religious Syncretization and Survivance in Louise Erdrich’s Reservation Novels
Chapter 2: Unchurched Preachers and Wanton Women: Spirituality, Community, and Nationhood in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Paradise
Chapter 3: Religious Performance in Diaspora in the Novels of Cristina García
Afterward: Toward a Global Postsecular Studies
Ann Genzale’s important new book changes the way belief has been understood in American fiction. Incisive and elegant chapters explore improvised spiritual practices and their transformative potential in modern and contemporary fictions. These sharp analytical essays expose the exclusive and exclusionary nature of national myths of identity; as a whole, this original study also uncovers forms of spiritual community that thrive in culturally hybrid spaces.