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Living the Contradiction : Life Histories, Feminism, Theology

Title data

Cortiel, Jeanne:
Living the Contradiction : Life Histories, Feminism, Theology.
In: Krabbendam, Hans ; Rubin, Derek (ed.): Religion in America : European and American Perspectives. - Amsterdam : VU University Press , 2004 . - pp. 189-200 . - (European Contributions to American Studies ; 52 )
ISBN 90 5383 899 6

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Abstract in another language

This essay compares the life narratives of American and German feminist religious thinkers, exploring significant interconnections between theological and autobiographical narratives in these two cultural contexts. On the American side of this comparison, the essay focuses on the intellectual autobiographies of two of the most prominent American feminist religious thinkers, Mary Daly’s Outercourse (1992) and Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Disputed Questions (1982). These two texts use similar discursive strategies to create an emphatically female presence while at the same time tapping central figures of masculinity to endow their speaking subjects with power. However, they also weave their stories into American cultural narratives of individual and national independence and expansion. The autobiographical element in this discourse does not, as is often claimed, so much provide a link to a general “women’s experience” but it rather serves to authenticate the theological vision by grounding it in the divinely ordained voice of the prophet. As a point of reference, I draw on the writing of German feminist theologians of roughly the same generation and equivalent status as intellectual and spiritual leaders, specifically Dorothee Sölle’s Gegenwind (1995) and Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel’s Wer die Erde nicht berührt, kann den Himmel nicht erreichen (1997). The autobiographical writing of all four of these theologians combines the power of politics, spirituality and aesthetics to formulate a vision of women’s place in religious ritual and myth that does not aim for a piece of the pie but for a wholly new recipe. The analysis explores three major aspects of feminist autobiographical writing: First, a comparative analysis of the authorial Self, in other words of the narrative voice in the text, reveals a fundamental difference in the source and shape of this voice between the American and German texts. Second, a look at the structure of the autobiographical narrative itself discloses another fundamental cultural boundary: The autobiographies by Ruether and Daly create coherent and cohesive personal narratives of liberation; Sölle and Moltmann-Wendel to the contrary significantly present episodic texts that resist the pull of plot coherence. Therefore, a narrative voice with an apparently culturally specific subject position foregrounds gender discontinuities and authority for the American authors and personal accountability for the two German writers.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a book
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: feminist theology; autobiography; religion in the United States
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Languages and Literature > Professor North American Studies - American Studies > Professor North American Studies - American Studies - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jeanne Cortiel
Profile Fields > Emerging Fields > Cultural Encounters and Transcultural Processes
Research Institutions > Central research institutes > Bayreuth Institute for American Studies - BIFAS
Faculties > Faculty of Languages and Literature
Faculties > Faculty of Languages and Literature > Professor North American Studies - American Studies
Profile Fields
Profile Fields > Emerging Fields
Research Institutions
Research Institutions > Central research institutes
Result of work at the UBT: No
DDC Subjects: 800 Literature > 810 American literature in English
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2015 10:50
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2023 11:52