About the Annie Dillard course
We often think that mysticism is a thing of the past, that the great mystics like Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich or Teresa of Avila are resigned to times long gone, and that mysticism died in the Reformations, the Enlightenment, or the Quietist Controversy. However, there are important mystical elements of all major world religions today including Christianity, and many 20th- and 21st-century figures exemplify mysticism.
This series looks at three prominent figures have been described as modern or postmodern mystics: Mother Maria Skobtsova; Howard Thurman and Annie Dillard.
Each session is led by an expert on the figure discussed and will comprise of a 55-minute lecture, a 25-minute discussion of a set text (sent out two weeks prior to the session), and a 25-minute question and answer session.
Our third session is about the Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Annie Dillard (1945-present), author of essays, prose pieces, novels and literary criticism. Having grown up as a Presbyterian in Pittsburgh but describing herself as a “shoddy Christian,” Dillard continues to have a great interest in the natural world and in pilgrimage, two themes which recur in her work, such as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Holy the Firm. Dillard often places herself in spaces of liminality, such as Puget Sound (standing in between the Pacific Ocean and the bustling city of Seattle), taking the place of a postmodern anchoress. Scholars such as Susan Felch, Martin Laird and Sue Yore have identified Dillard’s work within the realm of mysticism, with the latter describing Dillard’s writings as postmodern mysticism which Yore claims is ‘an orientation of consciousness that facilitates an experiential perception of a mysterious force behind creation and a means to determine moral worth and purpose through the disciplined use of the imagination, attention to others and the ability to “see” with three “eyes”: the physical, the spiritual, and the cognitive.’
About the Tutor
Dr Sue Yore is a senior lecturer at York St John University where she teaches a range of modules at undergraduate and postgraduate level, including those concerning Islam and religion and popular culture. Sue is an expert on contemporary mysticism and women’s writings as spiritual texts. Alongside P. C. H. Kollontai and S. C. H Kim, Sue has published two books, Mediating Peace: Reconciliation Through Art, Music and Film (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015) and Who is My Neighbour? Crossing Boundaries of Prejudice and Distrust (Jessica Kingsley, 2017), and Sue is the author of The Mystic Way in Postmodernity: Transcending Theological Boundaries in the Writings of Iris Murdoch, Denise Levertov and Annie Dillard (Peter Lang, 2009).