The Sacred Act of Reading: Spirituality, Performance, and Power in Afro-Diasporic Literature

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From Zora Neale Hurston to Derek Walcott to Toni Morrison, New World black authors have written about African-derived religious traditions and spiritual practices. The Sacred Act of Reading examines religion and sociopolitical power in modern and contemporary texts of a variety of genres from the black Americas. By engaging with spiritual traditions such as Vodou, Kumina, and Protestant Christianity while drawing on canonical Euro-centric literary theory, Anne Margaret Castro presents a novel, nuanced reading of power through the physical and metaphysical relationships portrayed in these great works of New World black literature. Castro examines prophecy in the dramas of Derek Walcott, preaching in the ethnography of Zora Neale Hurston, and liturgy in the novels of Toni Morrison, offering comparative readings alongside the works of Afro-Colombian anthropologist Manuel Zapata Olivella, Jamaican sociologist Erna Brodber, and Canadian fiction writer Nalo Hopkinson. The Sacred Act of Reading is the first book to bring together literary texts, historical and contemporary anthropological studies, theology, and critical theory to show how black authors in the Americas employ spiritual phenomena as theoretical frameworks for thinking within, against, and beyond structures of political dominance, dependence, and power.