American Religous Experience

Gerhard Hoffman and Alfred Hornung, eds., Emotion and Postmodernism (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, 1997). iv + 439 pages.

     These twenty-two essays on American culture, collected from participants at a conference held at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, offer numerous theoretical perspectives and critical insights for historians of American

"This is a very good volume, rich in understanding, provocative, and translatable directly to the study of American religions."

religions. By analyzing the ways in which emotion is represented, practiced, undermined, and continuously redefined in American culture -- sometimes with specific references to religious matters -- the contributions to this collection help to map a terrain that is of increasing importance to religious historians. Noel Carroll reviews theories about linkages between emotions and morality. Rüdiger Kunow discusses the seeming repression of emotion in Holocaust writings by Wiesel, Spiegelman, and Kosinski. Gerhard Hoffman brilliantly outlines the matrices linking character, desire, emotion, and action in the postmodern American novel. Along the way, essays on emotion and skyscrapers, the Grand Canyon, and Maxine Hong Kingston's works explore themes relevant to much recent religious historiography, and the collection concludes with an excellent theoretical overview of the "fear of savages," by Edith Wyschogrod. Some of these essays explicitly criticize Frederic Jameson's celebrated definition of postmodernism as a cultural movement involving the "waning of affect," and Jean-François Lyotard's absolute distinction between cognition and feeling. The essays as a whole tilt towards philosophy and theory, and literature, with historical insights interwoven throughout. This is a very good volume, rich in understanding, provocative, and translatable directly to the study of American religions.

John Corrigan



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