The Cultural Work of Form in Elisabeth Elliot's Writing
Exploring Narrative Modes and Cultural Models of Life Writing in the Contact Zone
This study combines theoretical approaches of cognitive anthropology, cultural narratology, and cultural formalism to disclose the powerful impact of narrative forms on cultural processes of meaning-making. As an illustration of how forms shape and alter cultural worldviews in the contact zone, the work of American missionary and writer Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015) serves as a case study. Despite her wide influence on American Protestant communities as a popular speaker and author of over thirty books, Elliot's role as a key figure in shaping narratives of redemption in America remains largely unacknowledged in literary and cultural scholarship. Focusing on fourteen of Elliot's published works from her early bestseller Through Gates of Splendor (1957) to her modern essay collection Secure in the Everlasting Arms (2002), this study investigates the texts' negotiations of redemptive modes and models, witnessing an increasing turn away from whole forms. Thereby, the analysis uncovers the role of formal explorations as a means to grapple with and interpret discomforting experiences of the contact zone that call into question redemptive plots. Demonstrating the specific affordances and constraints in Elliot's work of hagiographic, ethnographic, fictive, biographic, geopious, and essayistic forms to write life in a redemptive way, this monograph promises a deeper understanding of narrative repertoires of redemption and their cultural work through form.
ISBN 978-3-86821-903-6, kt., 250 S., € 32,50 (2021)