• Divine Imaginaries: The Turn to Literature in the Feminist Theology and Spirituality

      Llewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester
      At least since beginnings of the second wave of the women’s movement, feminist theologies and spiritualities have turned to the literary world, particularly women’s writing, as a resource. The novels, poetry, prose, and drama authored by women have been used by feminist scholarship to critique the patriarchal and androcentric language, teachings, doctrine, and scriptures of religious traditions, and to reimagine the sacred in ways that validate, recognize, and speak to women’s spiritual lives. In this chapter, I discuss religious feminism’s very literary disposition, and the ways it has harnessed women’s creative written worlds. First, I highlight two connected reasons for the ‘turn to literature’ - the dissatisfaction with Christian scripture and the desire for an alternative set of ‘sacred texts’ to inspire and generate new theological and spiritual insights – drawing on feminists whose work draws together religion and women’s literature. Second, the chapter highlights that while the use of literature has been vital in the development of feminist religious thinking, the reading strategies adopted have tended to rely on the often problematic categories of women’s experience and authorship. This can mean that feminist literary spiritualities have been guilty of essentializing women’s religious identities, and by preferring women’s writing as its sacred texts has limited literature. Finally, the chapter suggests that despite the prevalence of literature in feminist theology, actual, embodied women readers are a neglected but important part of the turn to literature.
    • "I’m Still Reading the Bible!” Post-Christian Women’s Biblical Reading Practices

      Llewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester
      In this chapter, I highlight post-Christian women’s biblicalism as a spiritual practice, while raising two questions for gendered religious reading practices and religious feminism’s uses and approaches to literature, which might also help explain why the activity of reading is underexplored. First, post-Christian women’s biblicalism crosses the distinction between sacred and secular literature sometimes assumed in religious feminism. In the search for alternative textual sources for doing theology, an either/or separation between sacred and secular has been presumed, which has not only set the Bible and women’s writing apart, but also reading practices and processes. Second, experience has been privileged in religious feminisms’ turn to literature as it seeks examples of women’s spiritual encounters; while in biblical feminism, women’s voices are the standpoint from which to examine scripture from a range of contextual positions. However, religious feminism has tended to focus on the text to the extent that actual readers are usually implied: everyday women’s experiences of reading have been passed over. Yet, by qualitatively interviewing post-Christian women readers to listen to their reading experiences, biblical reading emerges as a spiritual practice amongst women identifying against the Christian tradition. This troubles the assumption that women who use literature as a spiritual resource are doing so because they have found the Christian testaments lacking in opportunities to access the divine, and have therefore excluded them from their personal collections of spiritual texts. While post-Christian women readers in this study are critical of the Bible and question its relevancy, they continue to read it. I begin by briefly discussing the fieldwork upon which this chapter is based and my use of ‘post-Christian’. I then point to the sacred and secular textual distinctions that have occurred in religious feminisms, followed by discussing the preference for implied rather than actual readers to suggest that post-Christian women’s biblicalism is an unexpected aspect of women’s spiritual reading practices. Finally, using examples from the fieldwork, I illustrate one of the ways post-Christian women’s biblicalism emerges in this research, as the women employ ‘filtering’ strategies to monitor their acceptance and use of the biblical texts in their spiritual lives.
    • Maternal Silences: Motherhood and Voluntary Childlessness in Christianity

      Llewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester (Brill, 2016-02-19)
      In Christianity, there is an ideology of motherhood that pervades scripture, ritual, and doctrine, yet there is an academic silence that means relatively little space has been given to motherhood and mothering, and even less to voluntary childlessness, from a faith perspective. By drawing on qualitative in-depth interviews with Christian women living in Britain, narrating their experiences of motherhood and voluntary childlessness, I suggest there are also lived maternal silences encountered by women in contemporary Christianity. There is a maternal expectation produced through church teaching, liturgy and culture that constructs women as ‘maternal bodies’ (Gatrell 2008); this silences and marginalises women from articulating their complex relationship with religion, motherhood, and childlessness in ways that challenge their spiritual development. However, this article also introduces the everyday and intentional tactics women employ to disrupt the maternal expectation, and hereby interrupt the maternal silence.
    • Promoting the Good: Ethical and Methodological Considerations in Practical Theological Research.

      Graham, Elaine L.; Llewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester (SCM Press, 2018-09-28)
      In this chapter, we draw on our experiences as supervisors on a Professional Doctorate in Practical Theology (DProf) at the University of Chester, UK, to reflect on the ethical dimensions of undertaking research in this field of study. Using three case-studies, based on our students’ work, we examine how the ethical challenges they have navigated and addressed – using a range of methods -- offer examples of the ways practical theological research can trouble and speak back to well-established practices. First, we contextualize the Professional Doctorate in practical theology and introduce the idea of the ‘researching professional’, before suggesting that although practical theology is a broad discipline, it aims to transform the researcher’s practice, their institution, and the academy. The chapter then moves to outline the part that qualitative methodologies play in the discipline and focus on its forms of research as implicated and therefore ethical project. Finally, we discuss three illustrations of recent doctoral work in practical theology that raise issues of consent, privacy, anonymity, and avoiding harm. In particular, we draw out that these examples point towards ways that qualitative research strives towards ‘the good’.
    • Reading, Feminism, Spirituality: Troubling the Waves

      Llewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015-09-30)
      Through original interviews and research, Llewellyn uses spirituality to uncover new commonalities between the second and third feminist waves, and sacred and secular experiences. Her lively approach highlights the importance of reading cultures in feminist studies, connecting women's voices across generations, literary practices, and religions.
    • Religion, Equalities and Inequalities

      Llewellyn, Dawn; Sharma, Sonya; University of Chester; University of Kingston (Routledge, 2016-08-03)
      Presenting cutting edge research on how religion can confront and obscure social inequalities in everyday life, Religion, Equalities and Inequalities argues that when religion is left out of social scientific analyses, it can result in incomplete analyses that conceal pathways to social inclusion and exclusion. Bringing together an international and interdisciplinary group of contributors who operate at the vanguard of theoretical and empirical work on how social structures of power, institutions and bodies can generate equalities and inequalities in religion, the collection shows how religion can enable and challenge the inequities that affect people’s everyday lives.
    • VOLUNTARY CHILDLESSNESS AND CHRISTIANITY: REJECTING THE SELFISH OTHER

      Llewellyn, Dawn (Liverpool University Press, 2019-04)