Imagining Grace

Imagining Grace : Liberating Theologies in the Slave Narrative Tradition

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Imagining Grace extends the tradition of the slave narrative to contemporary artists and demonstrates how they all work toward a "liberation theology"--even though it may not be traditionally Christian or more

Product details

  • Hardback | 328 pages
  • 158.5 x 234.2 x 30mm | 671.82g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 025202530X
  • 9780252025303

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In this subtle and illuminating study, Kimberly Rae Connor surveys examples of contemporary literature, drama, art, and music that extend the literary tradition of African-American slave narratives. Revealing the powerful creative links between this tradition and liberation theology's search for grace, she shows how these artworks profess a liberating theology of racial empathy and reconciliation, even if not in traditionally Christian or sacred language.From Frederick Douglass's autobiographical writings through Richard Wright's imaginative reconstruction of slavery to Ernest Gaines's Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and the candescent novels of Toni Morrison, slave narratives exhort the reader to step into the experience of the dispossessed. Connor underscores the broad influence of the slave narrative by considering nonliterary as well as literary works, including Glenn Ligon's introspective art, Anna Deavere Smith's one-woman performance pieces, and Charlie Haden's politically engaged Liberation Music Orchestra. Through these works, readers, listeners, and viewers imagine grace on two levels: as the liberation of the enslaved from oppression and as their own liberation from prejudice and "willed innocence".Calling to task a complacent white society that turns a blind eye to deep-seated and continuing racial inequalities, Imagining Grace shows how these creative endeavors embody the search for grace, seeking to expose racism in all its guises and lay claim to political, intellectual, and spiritual more

Review quote

"Graceful, wide ranging, and heartfelt... Well researched and free of jargon, the volume eschews the discourse and paradigms of contemporary cultural theory in favor of wisdom and stories about race from writers, musicians, and cultural icons of all kinds, from Rosa Parks to sports broadcaster Red Barber." -- Choice "A powerfully lucid study of contemporary literature, drama, art, and music rooted in the African-American slave narrative tradition... Connor's book is highly intelligent, substantiated with a variety of critical sources, and it makes the crucial argument that liberatory arts imaginatively move audiences of all races toward social justice and inclusiveness." -- Rachel Stein, Multicultural Review "Unveils the far-reaching importance of theological aesthetics to the American slave narrative tradition and its many descendents... Connor's study of the legacy of slave narratives invites us to shift the focus of scholarly fascination from the debilitating effects of racism and scenes of subjection to the undervalued and neglected concepts of imaginative creation and transformation." -- Christopher C. Freeburg, American Literature ADVANCE PRAISE "Connor's illuminating book has a genuinely social as well as scholarly mission. The liberating theologies she reveals in slave narratives remind us that through the imaginative leap, as well as the leap of faith, we can renew our capacity to identify with others and reenvision ourselves." -- William L. Andrews, author of To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865 "Connor reveals startling and persuasive connections among writers, performance and material artists, and musicians whose work reflects the slave narrative tradition." -- Eric Sundquist, author of To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature "Charts new realms for everyone engaged in American, cultural, and African-American studies. Employing a daring interdisciplinary methodology, an engaging tone, and an intriguing set of texts, Connor conclusively demonstrates the sweeping legacy of the slave narrative in liberation theology, performance art, and, most important, in a dazzling array of literary masterworks... [She forces] us to acknowledge, among other things, the spiritual aspect of cultural production and the centrality of African-American expressive forms in our communal heritage." -- John Lowe, author of Jump at the Sun: Zora Neale Jurston's Cosmic Comedyshow more