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A Different Sort of Gilead: Marilynne Robinson

February 2 – March 9, 2021
Tuesdays, 6:00-8:00 p.m. (six sessions)
online via Zoom

Marilynne Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping, was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1982. In 2005, she was awarded the Pulitzer for her second novel, Gilead. In this seminar we will read both novels; a subsequent seminar will focus on Robinson’s third and fourth novels, which take up and expand upon the story told in Gilead.

All novels are concerned with questions of family, home, memory, and the often fraught nature of human relationships. In Housekeeping, two sisters struggle towards maturity amidst tragic and complicated family circumstances. Set in a hauntingly atmospheric Idaho town, Robinson’s lyrical story blends the mundane and the mythical and confronts us with both the beauty and the difficulty of love. Gilead takes the form of journal entries, written by elderly Iowa minister Reverend John Ames for his young son. Ames’s memories and meditations—upon life, death, faith, family, and human imperfection—ultimately reveal insights into his own beliefs and behavior. In Ames, Robinson has created a narrator so poignantly human we forget he is fictional (and wish he weren’t).

We will explore both the novels’ themes and Robinson’s craftsmanship, paying close attention not only to narrative, but to structure and language.

Housekeeping (Picador)
Gilead (Picador)

Schedule of Readings

Weeks 1-3 – Housekeeping
Week 1 – Before first meeting, please read Chapters 1-4 (pp. 3-75)
Week 2 – Chapters 5-7 (pp. 76-142)
Week 3 – Chapters 8-11 (pp. 143-219)
Weeks 4-6 – Gilead
Week 4 – pp. 3-76
Week 5 – pp. 77-164
Week 6 – pp. 165-247

*Page numbers correspond to the editions listed above

Delve Access Program
We want Delve seminars to be accessible to everyone, regardless of income and background. We understand that our tuition structure can present obstacles for some people. We are happy to offer an Access Program which provides reduced tuition to qualifying participants. Most Delves have at least one access spot available. Contact Susan Moore at susan@literary-arts.org if you would like to take a Delve at the Access Rate

Sara Atwood

Sara Atwood teaches English literature and writing at Portland Community College and Portland State University. She is Co-Director of the Ruskin Society of North America and has lectured widely, both in the US and abroad, on John Ruskin, education, the environment, and language. Her work has been published in Nineteenth-Century Prose, The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, and Carlyle Studies Annual. She is the author of Ruskin’s Educational Ideals and has contributed essays to a number of books, including Teaching Victorian Literature in the Twenty-First Century, John Ruskin and Nineteenth-Century Education, William Morris and John Ruskin, and Victorian Environmental Nightmares.
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