A few days ago I submitted a paper abstract for a literature conference taking place at Brigham Young University in October. The conference is called “Literature and the Sacred,” and, as may be obvious, focuses on the various intersections between Literature, Religion, and Philosophy. As some of my friends know, that is an area I’m extremely interested in, and so this conference seemed right up my alley. In fact, I already had a paper that I wrote last semester that I thought might make a good presentation for this conference. So, with a little help from my good friend Clay, I wrote an abstract, sent it in, and was accepted. Yeah!
So, from October 14-16, I will be in Provo, Utah, at Brigham Young University. At my very first academic conference ever. The only concern is how expensive it’s going to be for the flight, hotel, food, and taxi (from Salt Lake City to Provo, since Provo doesn’t have an airport). Joy. Oh well, it’ll be worth it to finally get a little exposure, experience, and something good to put on my C.V.
For anyone who might be curious, here’s the abstract I sent in:
“The Scent of a Pine Tree”: Reconciling Spirituality and Postmodernism in D.M. Thomas’s The White Hotel
In certain areas of postmodernism, religion is often dismissed as yet another modernist narrative that forecloses difference and attempts to master the world through an authoritative and oppressive conception of Ultimate Truth. However, to completely dismiss or vilify religion is simply to deny one more possibility for mystery, for anything beyond the physical, as well as denying an integral part of many cultures – precisely what postmodernism usually wishes to avoid. Instead of considering institutionalized religion, which is often problematic from a postmodern viewpoint, I propose considering a spirituality that, though often expressed through more traditional aspects of religion, is ultimately outside doctrine, and opens up the possibility for difference and mystery. It is this kind of spirituality that D.M. Thomas explores and advocates in The White Hotel, by employing a wide variety of religious images in new and surprising ways.
I demonstrate, first, how Thomas removes authority from Freudian rationalism and shifts his attention to Jung’s more mystical spiritual symbolism. I then systematically explore Thomas’s use of Jungian, mystical, and Christian symbols. These symbols offer multiple meanings that Thomas keeps in play throughout the novel, combining opposites and creating a space that exists outside representation and rationality. The kind of spirituality that Thomas demonstrates in this novel is not a modernist narrative that erases difference, denies mystery, or forecloses subjectivity. Instead, the novel as a whole becomes a place that is open to play, multiplicity, mystery, and faith.