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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Presence of mind: The writings of Marilynne Robinson
by Weston, Angela F., M.A.L.S., Georgetown University, 2012, 98; 1530510
Abstract (Summary)

Marilynne Robinson is arguably one of America's best contemporary authors. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for her novel Gilead and of the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel Home, Robinson is often recognized for her graceful diction and the interfusion of theology into her fiction. Many scholars focus on recurring themes in her writing, such as grace, nature, compassion, family, or expressions of femininity. But the questions remain to be asked: Can we understand Robinson's works without a theological framework? Is there any connection between the content and the form of her novels? How do the ideas expressed in her nonfiction find expression in her novels?

Researching such questions in Robinson's writing is possible because her thoughtful and provocative body of work is contained in three novels and four nonfiction books. Careful reading of her entire corpus does indeed reveal there is one common thread woven through all her works. Interviews with Robinson and analyses of her works support this conclusion. This common thread extending across all Robinson's writing is her belief in the existence of and a high valuation of the mind.

This thesis explains the importance Robinson puts on the mind. Her perspective of the mind is revealed in her nonfiction, primarily in two ways. First, Robinson critiques those who would deny the mind's existence by explaining human experience as a result of conditioning or instinct. Second, Robinson expects that the mind be accounted for in many areas of life including the arts, the sciences, the academy and education, theology, ecology, altruism, philosophy, and political discourse. Robinson's humanism and theology are derived from her view of the mind.

Robinson's valuation placed on the mind having been made evident, this thesis proceeds to demonstrate, both through its text and through substantive comments at the beginning of footnotes, how Robinson's perspective influences her fiction. Her choice of narrators for her novels; her aim as an author to create characters with their own voices; her foregrounding of characters' perceptions; and her portrayal of memory, mystery, and mercy are all aspects of a mindful human life. Ultimately, Robinson's fiction highlights the role our minds play in understanding and living within reality.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Collins, Michael
School: Georgetown University
Department: Liberal Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 51/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American literature
Keywords: Human, Memory, Mind, Mystery, Perspective, Point of view
Publication Number: 1530510
ISBN: 978-1-267-79236-5
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