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Reading Fiction as a Spiritual Practice

  • Course Dates: Mon 28 October, 10:00 am to Wed 30 October, 4:00 pm

William Blake called the Old and New Testaments ‘The Great Code of Western Art’ and we see it over and over again in great works of fiction.

In this course, we will explore the symbols at play in three novels in profound conversation with the Bible:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird on Mon, 28 October 2019
  • Jane Eyre on Tues, 29 Oct 2019 and
  • The Life of Pi Wed, 30 Oct 2019

Book one day, two days, or all three days.  Discounted B&B is available for those who wish to stay in College and attend more than one day.

The word “fiction” means “to make.” This course will demonstrate how great works of literature make meaning out of the gospel story. The experience is designed to teach participants a novel way of reading, one applicable to both fiction and scripture.  Focusing on one novel per day, each day will be structured as a reading and discussing the selected novel that illuminates how the novel is itself reading the Bible and, more particularly, the gospel story, but also exploring the ways in which we read fiction as a spiritual practice.

We will be using an anagogical method in our reading, modelled after Dante’s four levels of reading scripture: the literal, allegorical, tropological, and anagogical. Anagogical readings incorporate the imaginative intercourse between the text and the reader into their interpretations.  In this way of reading, the meaning of a text is not what it is “about.” Meaning, understood anagogically, is an event. It is what happens between a text and its reader. For example: in the novel Jane Eyre, Jane marries Rochester—that is something that happens “in” the story: an element of its plot and theme. But what happens in the reading of the story? What happens, in other words, in the interaction between Jane Eyre (the novel) and the reader’s imagination? Might not there be the possibility of marriage here too? Perhaps the marriage of Jane and Rochester in the novel prefigures the possibility of a marriage between the story and the reader’s imagination. Anagogical readings involve weddings of that imaginatively profound kind.

In collaboration with The Centre for Contemporary Spirituality

Course Details

Mon 28 October, 10:00 am
Wed 30 October, 4:00 pm
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Sarum College

Michael Verde Michael Verde facilitates literary discussions for organisations, libraries, reading groups, and via podcasts. He has an MA in literary studies from the University of Iowa and a MA in theology from the University of Durham, England. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Inquiry Methodology from Indiana University.Jayme Reaves is the Centre Coordinator and also Coordinator for the Short Course programme at Sarum College. She is a public theologian, with a specialist interest in making the Bible, theology, and theological methods more accessible to the public and helping congregations and communities reflect on the public impact of their theology. She is also an Honorary Fellow at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education.
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Course Price:
S £70 E £60 C £50