Dian Saderup Monson
"Believing in the Word"
In "Believing in the Word" Dian Saderup Monson brings a Mormon
sensibility to a larger national audience, challenging the skepticism
of contemporary literary theory and boldly claiming that language and
literature, reading and writing are inherently acts of faith.
The indeterminacy of language does not make true communication
impossible, but any communication miraculous. The inaccessibility of
an author's intention does not make an absolute gulf between reader
and writer, but an opportunity for unusual and compelling
communion. And the ease with which critics can dissipate literary
meanings by reference to political or cultural conditions may simply
be sophisticated dodges from the spirit of a text.
This is the case with a critic Monson describes who, in reading a
short story by Catholic author Andre Dubus, looks so narrowly at
gender issues that the protagonist's experiences of crisis and grace
are lost to her. Just as the protagonist in Dubus's story must learn
to submit to God's grace, so must we readers, according to Monson, be
willing to surrender ourselves and our convenient interpretive lenses
to the mystery and manners of an author's work. It is only on the
basis of such trust that language and literature become mediating and
"As I read fiction and teach it," Monson concludes, " I will seek to
maintain a certain faith, not only in the precarious reliability of
words, but in the notion that authors use words with purpose that
readers may, by a combination of wit and grace, divine."
[Full text of the article avaliable at First Things.]