Marilynne Robinson's Waterlines

  • Kira ROSE (Speaker)
  • DU, C. (Moderator)

Activity: Talks or PresentationsOther Invited Talks or Presentations


This talk on renowned American novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson argues that water in her work enacts her beliefs about fluid perception and narration and should be seen as a signpost for her creative process. I provide new perspectives on her use of water imagery to cultivate attunement in readers. First, I situate Robinson's aesthetics more broadly, with a locus on how her views on perception are shaped by religious thought, particularly that of John Galvin, as well as by psychologist and philosopher William James's writings on consciousness. Tracing conceptual and stylistic connections between Robinson's writings and the American literary tradition, I go on to demonstrate how, in Housekeeping (1980), water is the seat of perceptual experience and its attendant mysteries and becomes the repository of dreams. I illustrate, moreover, how water is Robinson's extended metaphor for the limits and potential of . language and form. Water also mediates between internal and external slates, showcasing the mind's struggle lo reconcile experiential contingency with static social norms, such as but not limited to physical dwelling. This element, I contend, enables Robinson to emphasize everyday beauty, signal the infinite variability of the imagination, and convey ontological presence and experience through her fiction.
Period1 Mar 2021