Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spirituality in contemporary Australian women’s fiction

Part of my current life task is to listen to Australia. In that context, an unexpected treasure is Rewriting God. Spirituality in contemporary Australian women’s fiction..  She laments that fact that “apart from Veronica Brady, there are no female religious writers who have addressed Australian spirituality in any depth.” (86) The book then addresses the question of whether contemporary Australian women fiction writers – Thea Astley, Elizabeth Jolley, Barbara Hanrahan – are addressing God questions.  In doing so, it finds a spirituality very different from that espoused by male theologians. For instance

  • God is a verb, rather than a noun. There is a focus on the active agency of love, healing and friendship rather than debates of gender.
  • Scant attention is being paid to the solitary and distant place, like the desert, outback or the wilderness.

“Women find it possible to access the divine wherever they are, in their houses and gardens, in the company of friends and family, or in the act of creation … The way to God is through joy, creativity, and loving kindness: ‘salvation’ is communal not individual.” (278, 9)

  • A recurring behaviour is a concern for other people. In this sense, the hermetic journey to the outback is seen as self-absorbed.
  • Acceptance of self, of humanity, of frailness, is the first step towards God. This is in contrast to a negation of self.  “[S]ervice to others is therefore rendered not as a penance but out of compassion and willingness to share onself and thus be enriched.” (279)

Love to hear feedback from the locals, about the claims of another local. In the meantime, I want to go back and re-read a younger Australian writer, Charlotte Wood, and her book The Submerged Cathedral. I seem to recall a woman who does go “outback”:

She builds a garden, creatively using Australian plants to transform the hollowed hull of the monastery. It’s ceaseless and heart-breakingly hard work. But in the process of contextualisation, of clearing Australian clay, she finds love, meaning and redemption.

Posted by steve at 11:45 AM

4 Comments

  1. “Women find it possible to access the divine wherever they are, in their houses and gardens, in the company of friends and family, or in the act of creation … The way to God is through joy, creativity, and loving kindness: ’salvation’ is communal not individual.” (278, 9)

    has resonance w a certain possible masters!

    Comment by lynne — May 18, 2010 @ 11:59 am

  2. have you read the first novel of Adelaide based writer Eva Sallis? She’s, or she was, a lecturer at Adelaide university. The book is Hiam, and is a spiritual / literal journey to the centre and back. I’ll bring it tomorrow in case you’d like to borrow it. We read it when I was studying English at Flinders, in a course called ‘writing landscapes’, and I remember being deeply moved by the story.

    Comment by sarah — May 18, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

  3. Love to see it Sarah,

    Lynne, if you need supervision doing a masters in this area, we at Uniting College would love to talk to you, :)

    steve

    Comment by steve — May 18, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  4. Sarah, read Haim on the plane. Fascinating. But is she re-connected with spirituality through the outback, or through the stories?

    steve

    Comment by steve — May 21, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

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