Chasing the Trace of the Sacred: Postmodern Spiritualities in Contemporary American Fiction
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This dissertation examines the treatment, forms, and representations of spirituality in contemporary American fiction. Drawing on recent theories in cultural and critical theory, sociology, and rhetoric, I argue that postmodern fiction finds sacredness in creative memory and information systems. I analyze E.L. Doctorow’s (2000) City of God, Leslie Marmon Silko’s (1991) Almanac of the Dead, Richard Powers’(2006) Echo Maker, and William Gibson’s (1948) Neuromancer. In their quest for the sacred, these works acknowledge the mystic along with the rational as a legitimate vehicle of knowledge; accordingly, the mysterious and the incomprehensible are accounted for within the epistemological structure of such spirituality. Contrary to the disparaging views of postmodern discourse as depoliticized, the fiction examined in this dissertation redefines the relationship between the sacred and the secular to engender social change and transformation. The dissertation stresses the significance of reconsidering the role of literary spiritualities as a vehicle of transformation. By advancing such reconsideration, the dissertation achieves two goals. First, it argues for the impurity of the secular as a construct and sees in this impurity a chance for theory to transcend diagnosis and deconstruction and move toward transformation. Second, by revealing a redemptive sensibility within postmodern discourse, the dissertation challenges Hutcheon's characterization of postmodern culture and discourse as "complicitous critique," showing how culture weaves narratives of restoration to counteract the pressure of fragmentation brought about by global capitalism.
Sallah, Asmahan (2010). Chasing the Trace of the Sacred: Postmodern Spiritualities in Contemporary American Fiction. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from