Given its affinity with questions of identity, autobiography offers a way into the interior space between author and reader, especially when writers define themselves in terms of religion. In his exploration of this "textual intimacy," Wesley Kort begins with a theorization of what it means to say who one is and how one's self-account as a religious person stands in relation to other forms of self-identification. He then provides a critical analysis of autobiographical texts by nine contemporary American writers—including Maya Angelou, Philip Roth, and Anne Lamott—who give religion a positive place in their accounts of who they are. Finally, in disclosing his own religious identity, Kort concludes with a meditation on several meanings of the word assumption.
Textual Intimacy is a fine book. It weaves together in a unique and creative way theories of religion and life writing, criticism of recent memoirs and autobiographies, and the author’s narrative of his still-evolving religious identity.
In this humane and gracious study, Wesley Kort writes with an unusual and attractive openness, not to say candor, that invites his reader into the processes of his own deliberation and evaluation. This is a splendid book.
This innovative work of religion and literature by Kort (Duke Univ.) provides a careful analysis of different types of American religious identities that emerge from autobiographical narratives. Impressively, this ambitious thesis buids coherently out of three very different parts of the text, each of which offers insightful distinctions that expand the scope of the book beyond its stated range without overwhelming it.... Accessible, innovative, and challenging.
Wesley A. Kort, Professor of Religion at Duke University, is the author of Place and Space in Modern Fiction.