Spirits of Place in American Literary Culture

ISBN : 9780190646547

John Gatta
288 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Sep 2018
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What might it mean, existentially and spiritually, for humans to form an intimate relation with particular sites or dwelling places on earth? In ancient Rome, the notion of a locale's genius loci signaled recognition of its enchanted, enspirited identity. But in a digitalized America of unprecedented mobility can place still matter as seed ground for the soul? Such questions have been broached by ecocritics concerned with how place-inflected experience figures in literature, and by theologians concerned with ecotheology and ecospirituality. This book offers a uniquely integrative perspective, informed by a theological phenomenology of place that takes fuller account of the spiritualities associated with built environments than ecocriticism typically does.

Spirits of Place blends theological and cultural analysis with personal reflection, while focusing on the multi-layered witness presented by American literature. John Gatta's interpretive readings range across texts by an array of canonical as well as lesser-known writers. Along the way, it addresses such themes as the religious implications of localism vs. globalism; the diverse spiritualities associated with long-term residency, resettlement, and pilgrimage; why some sites seem more hallowed than others; and how the creative spirit of Imagination figures in place-identified perceptions of the numinous. Whether in Christian or other religious terms, no discrete place matters absolutely. Yet this study demonstrates how and why hallowed geography and the sacramentality of place have mattered throughout our cultural history.


Chapter 1. Houses of the Spirit
Chapter 2. Spirits of Pilgrimage, Peregrination, and Re-Placement
Chapter 3. The Place of Imagination
Chapter 4. Sacred Sites and Geographies
Chapter 5. Contemplating Site-Based Education and Place-making

About the author: 

John Gatta is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South. He is the author of Making Nature Sacred (OUP 2004) and numerous other publications concerned with American literature and the interplay between religion and literature.

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