Monday, May 25, 2009


LITERARY WORKS BY MEN have often been studied for their theological contributions. In this book, Heather Walton makes a strong case for more fully incorporating fiction, published diaries, journals, poetry, science fiction, and feminist philosophy by women into the discussion of theology. She especially encourages "religious feminists [to] open themselves to literature" because it offers a realm for "tension, conflict, dialogue, and vital relation" with religious tradition (p. 16).

Walton is the Director of the Centre for Literature, Theology, and the Arts at Glasgow University, and her particular knowledge is reflected in the choice of topics in this book. The introductory chapter is an overview of influential works read widely by women during the 1970s-1990s. Among these works are the novels of Doris Lessing, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and Toni Morrison's Beloved. Pioneering work by feminist theologians Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow and womanist ethicist Katie Cannon are also included, along with the "dialogic engagement" (p. 12) of Kathleen Sands and Rita Nakashima Brock. In nine successive chapters, Walton examines interdisciplinary connections between literature and theology--political, sexual, "mythmaking," and "symbol." She examines the water symbolism in two novels by Marilynne Robinson (Homemaking and Gilead) and engages novels by Michele Roberts to speak about "revisioning, a practice" borrowed from Adrienne Rich that Walton also relates to the hermeneutical work of NT scholar Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. Walton also draws upon the Nazi-era diaries of German Jew Etty Hillesum for themes of beauty and resistance; the 1939 journal and 1945 prose of Elizabeth Smart and the work of French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray for their "extreme faith"; and Elaine Graham on the "post/human" or cyborg.

In a distinctive chapter on the Queen of Sheba, Walton retells the story of the two women who came before Soloman to settle a dispute over a single live infant (1 Kgs 3:16-27). Turning a familiar interpretation upon its head, Walton's midrash suggests that the woman who gave up the claim to the child was not the biological mother. Through use of a fictional child born to the Queen of Sheba and Solomon, Walton connects the Queen's child, the sacrifice by the childless woman, and the death of Bathsheba's first son. This allows Walton to speak about suffering and the judgment of God. She thus illustrates for readers the process of "birthing the Word" (p. 78) as a woman preacher--here, giving birth to Wisdom's word/Wisdom's child as Walton draws a parallel between Solomon and Jesus.

The one drawback of the book is its cost, as it is not yet available in paperback. Some of the essays, however, can be found in other published sources. Walton's book provides the opportunity for women in different social locations and various forms of ministry to explore the interplay of theology and contemporary literature.




Named Works: Imagining Theology: Women, Writing, and God (Nonfiction work) Book reviews

Source Citation:Reagan, Debra. "Imagining Theology: Women, Writing, and God.(Book review)." Interpretation 63.2 (April 2009): 203(2). InfoTrac Religion and Philosophy eCollection. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 26 May 2009


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