Acceso abierto

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, and the Battle for the Soul

Perichoresis's Cover Image
Special Issue: : Celebrating 500 Years since the Reformation, 1517-2017. ‘On the Soul’ through the History of Ideas. Views of the Soul in Philosophy, Literature & Relivion by Ramona Simuț


A widespread view among contemporary philosophers and scientists is that the soul is a mystification. For Marilynne Robinson, American essayist and novelist, the crux of the matter is not the existence of the soul in itself, since this cannot be settled by debate. Rather, she challenges the sort of evidence that her opponents—mostly basing themselves on the work of neuroscientists, and evolutionary biologists—deem to be decisive in determining the question. The soul, she claims, does not appear at the level of our genes and neurons. Rather it is encountered in the many works of art and reflection that human beings have produced from the earliest times. This paper will focus on one such document, Robinson’s novel Gilead (2004), in which she proposes a vision of the soul closely allied to the notion of blessing. Blessing, in turn, is inseparable from metaphor, pointing us to mystery, an elusive reality whose presence we experience only intermittently, although it is always there. Although Robinson’s several collections of essays provide needed context for the view of the soul displayed in the novel, it is our claim that it is the novel that truly turns the tables in the debate, inviting the reader to affirm or deny the soul’s reality not on the basis of the pronouncement of experts but on the basis of the way a given language aligns with experience. The internalization that such a process requires reveals the soul in action. This paper is thus a reading of Robinson’s writings on the soul.

Calendario de la edición:
3 veces al año
Temas de la revista:
Theology and Religion, General Topics and Biblical Reception