• 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.