During a class discussion about Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, the question was asked, “How did a slow novel portraying a protestant minister in a good light win the Pulitzer prize?” Gregory Wolfe, the professor, suggested that the sincerity of the novel left critics shocked. He then spoke about the New Sincerity, which I had never heard about before. It is the idea that a new wave of honesty and simplicity is on its way to replace the current irony, self-consciousness, and jadedness of our culture.
He cited Sufjan Stevens, Gilead, Arcade Fire, and folk-nuevo bands like Mumford and Sons that earnestly sing about things they care about.
This idea gave me a lot of hope and excitement for the future and my generation’s role in it.
Today was the second day of classes. I am enrolled in Honors UFound (Christian foundations), a survey of music literature from ancient Greece to Bach, several music groups, and Topics in American Literature. The last class is taught by Gregory Wolfe, founder and editor of IMAGE, a prominent literary quarterly that focuses on the intersection of faith and culture. He is also director of SPU’s MFA in creative writing.
I wasn’t really expecting any strong cohesion between these courses because they are each from different departments: theology, music, and English literature. But something has already emerged. In UFound, we will divide into groups and focus on different major Christian traditions—I’m hoping for Orthodox. In the survey class, we will study church chants of different places and eras. And the first book we’re reading in the Am Lit class is Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen. Mariette is right there on the cover experiencing ecstasy. I’ve received some odd looks. “She’s a nun,” I say, but that doesn’t change the looks.
The book is about a young woman, Mariette, who joins an order of sisters. SPOILER ALERT: Mr. Wolfe told us in class that she ends up with stigmata. There is so much tension building right now, in a weird nunny way.