Where do Canadians encounter religious meaning? Not where they used to!
In ten lively and wide-ranging essays, William Closson James examines various derivations of the sacred in contemporary Canadian culture. Most of the essays focus on the religious aspects of modern Canadian English fiction — for example, in essays on the fiction of Hugh MacLennan, Morley Callaghan, Margaret Atwood and Joy Kogawa. But James also explores other, non-literary events and activities in which Canadians have found something transcendant or revelatory.
Each of the chapters in Locations of the Sacred can be read independently as a discrete analysis of its subject. Taken as a whole, the essays make up a powerful argument for a new way of looking at the religious in contemporary Canada — not in the traditional ways of being religious, but in activities and locations previously thought to be “secular.” Thus, the domains and modes of the religious are expanded, not restricted.
This collection of essays is an important contribution to the small but growing body of work on religion....James's knowledge and understanding of popular religion in Canada are impressive and convincing. His close readings of the literary texts are insightful and persuasive. His writing is literate, intelligent, and mercifully jargon-free. Religious or not, the Canadian reader will find here an essential cultural commentary.
For those who want to trust in a God who is always challenging humans to press beyond the boundaries of the churches' common wisdom and current practices, these essays represent a wealth of insight and expansive vision.
There is brilliant work in James's Locations of the Sacred. I enjoyed reading it from start to finish and feel that there is in it some very valuable and original thinking which absolutely must see publication....No one has approached so many different works with such a well-grounded knowledge of religion in a Canadian context; nor has anyone so well discussed the significance of the natural world as a sacred place in Canadian culture, nor of religion as a secular phenomenon in Canadian society.
Eschewing grand theories of life or letters, James teases a sense of the sacred out of human stories -- fictional, factual, or some hybrid interlacing of both. A delight to read and a rich source of insights into the sacred's elusive presence in contemporary Canada's secular landscapes.