I’ve finally found some time in the middle of errands to finish off some of the books on my desk: Toward a Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism by Sharon Crowley, Negotiating Religious Faith in the Composition Classroom, edited by Elizabeth Vander Lei and Bonnie Kyburz, and The Antecedents of Antichrist by Lietaert Peerbolte. I also recently finished The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong.
I was somewhat disappointed by Crowley’s work. Everyone was talking about it, pro and con, at 4Cs last March. A more substantive and fair analysis will have to wait, but my main concern is with the tepidness of the offered solutions and the lack of engagement with the proof text of Christian fundamentalism, the Bible, as well as the history of Christianity prior to dispensationalism. I remember a Burkean analysis of her book at 4C’s, by graduate students at UNH, that made the first charge, though as I recall they thought her solutions were ineffective and inconsistent rather than tepid.
Armstrong’s book, while not concerned with rhetoric whatsoever, did a much better job at seriously exploring fundamentalist thought by exploring the authority of scripture and the history, and she covered Judiasm and Islam to boot. It was actually what I was looking for from Crowley, and to think that I only read Armstrong because my office-mate handed her book to me, figuring I’d think it was interesting.
Lei and Kyburz’s book was a nice collection of thoughtful essays on how composition instructors can successfully interact with overtly religious students without trampling on their beliefs. I really appreciated the focus on individual students and their papers. Rhetcomp may be a touchy-feely field, but sometimes that is its greatest strength.
Peerbolte’s tome is the best work on the historical conceptions, Jewish and Christian, of an eschatological opponent to the messiah, that I’ve found so far. It took me forever to read it, but it has been well worth that effort, as it has a flaw that all the studies I’ve found on the Antichrist share, and I think carefully pointing it out would make for an excellent article.