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Literary Criticism General

Reading Mennonite Writing

A Study in Minor Transnationalism

by (author) Robert Zacharias

Penn State University Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
General, Religion, Mennonite, 21st Century, 20th Century
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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Mennonite literature has long been viewed as an expression of community identity. However, scholars in Mennonite literary studies have urged a reconsideration of the field’s past and a reconceptualization of its future. This is exactly what Reading Mennonite Writing does.

Drawing on the transnational turn in literary studies, Robert Zacharias positions Mennonite literature in North America as “a mode of circulation and reading” rather than an expression of a distinct community. He tests this reframing with a series of methodological experiments that open new avenues of critical engagement with the field’s unique configuration of faith-based intercultural difference. These include cross-sectional readings in nonnarrative literary history; archival readings of transatlantic life writing; Canadian rewritings of Mexican film’s deployment of Mennonite theology as fantasy; an examination of the fetishistic structure of ethnicity as a “thing” that has enabled Mennonite identity to function in a post-identity age; and, finally, a tentative reinvestment in ideals of Mennonite community via the surprising routes of queerness and speculative fiction. In so doing, Zacharias reads Mennonite writing in North America as a useful case study in the shifting position of minor literatures in the wake of the transnational turn.

Theoretically sophisticated, this study of minor transnationalism will appeal to specialists in Mennonite literature and to scholars working in the broader field of transnational literary studies.

About the author

Robert Zacharias is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto. His research interests include migration literature, Canadian literature (with a focus on Mennonite literature), 18th-century studies, and critical pedagogy. His work has been published in Mosaic and Studies in Canadian Literature, as well as in the edited collections Embracing Otherness and Narratives of Citizenship.

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Editorial Reviews

“This book establishes Zacharias’s position as the next generation’s leader in the field, even as it recognizes his predecessors.”

—Julia Spicher Kasdorf, The Mennonite Quarterly Review

“Robert Zacharias demonstrates a truly impressive knowledge of the history of Mennonite publishing and reception. Extremely well read in a wide variety of Mennonite literary genres—what he terms a minor literature—he does valuable work in positioning this literature as fully engaged with transnational concerns and in attending to forgotten or neglected works within the field, while simultaneously positioning them alongside better- or well-known texts.”

—Grace Kehler, McMaster University

“Reading Mennonite Writing is an exciting, daring book that anyone interested in North American literary studies should read.”

—Daniel Shank Cruz, Ancillary Review of Books

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