The Novel as Church
Preaching to Readers in Contemporary Fiction
The Making of the Christian Imagination
232 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: March 2013
Reading the likes of Updike, Dickens, and Faulkner with a preacher's eye, David Dickinson offers an instructive examination of the role of the sermon as a literary element and, most strikingly, of literature as a modern sermon. Popular perceptions of religion, religious authority, and the practice of preaching have changed significantly during the past century, so much so, Dickinson argues, that fiction writers have a surprising and unique ability to preach to readers through their own fictionalized sermons and the characters who deliver them. The Novel as Church analyzes the context and intent behind these messages, uncovers the dissonance between "novel" and traditional preaching, and illuminates how readers' attitudes toward preaching (and those who preach) may be influenced--or not--by the sermon writers themselves.
1. Sounding the Depths of Dissonance
2. Have We Heard the End of the Sermon?
3. Amen: The Assumption of Authority
4. Keeping Faith: The Troubled Preacher in Updike and Lodge
5. Heaven in Ordinary: Religious Experience in Fictional Sermons
6. Words: Poison in the Ear, a Game with Language, or Naming Truth?
7. Shaping Paradise through Preaching
8. Memory and Imagination
The Novel as Church is an erudite, winsome, and empathic text, which rewards careful reading and prolonged reflection. Someday soon it will take up its place alongside Dawn Coleman’s Preaching and the Rise of the American Novel, G. Lee Ramsey Jr’s Preachers and Misfits, Prophets and Thieves: The Minister in Southern Fiction, and Douglas Alan Walrath’s Displacing the Divine: The Minister in the Mirror of American Fiction, as a breakthrough book in fictional ecclesiology.~Darren J. N. Middleton, Texas Christian University, Religious Studies Review
Drawing on an extensive range of texts, Dickinson confronts the academic and lay reader alike with the transformative interplay created by sermons when they are embedded in the world of the novel. The notion of church is offered new fertile ground on which to grow. The Novel as Church is a welcome addition to those in homiletics, literature, and the broader field of hermeneutics and a must-read for those engaged in the work of the church in post-Christian society.~Allen Permar Smith, Minister, Kenilworth Presbyterian Church
Dickinson has achieved that rare feat of producing a book that will be as interesting to the person in the pew as to literary scholars and theologians. Drawing on a wide range of modern transatlantic fiction, he demonstrates how fictional sermons can embody fresh visions, critique the current culture, and raise problems of authority, inspiration, and interpretation common to authors and readers, preachers and congregations. His swiftly-paced narrative produces moments to ponder and reflect the distilled wisdom of preaching experience and scholarly attentiveness.~Elisabeth Jay, Professor Emerita, Oxford Brookes University