The critical strategy of imagining literature’s sacramental, incarnational, and eucharistic capabilities has become increasingly popular over the last several decades’ turn to religion in literary studies. Yet these sacramental lenses remain predominantly undefined. Is to read a poem sacramentally to imagine God’s incarnational presence by analogy or in some more literal or perhaps miraculous way?
This special issue of CAL is the first edited collection of essays devoted to both practicing and reflecting upon the notion of the sacramental text. Essays consider the question of the sacramental in the writings of Chaucer, the Pearl Poet, Shakespeare, Herbert, Dickens, Hemingway, Marilynne Robinson, Graham Greene, and Emily Dickinson, and they draw on the philosophical and theological work of Kathleen Norris, Jurgen Habermas, Rowan Williams, Derrida, Levinas, and St. Paul.
In my introductory essay, I borrow from the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas to suggest that we think about such sacramental and incarnational moments as “disincarnate”: it is the disincarnation of the holy from them that evokes the feeling of spirit.