Colson Whitehead’s ‘The Underground Railroad’: The YSJ Big Summer Read 2018 Round-Up

As summer draws to a close, it is time to put away our YSJ Big Summer Read and turn our attention to the novels, plays, poetry and films that we’ll be reading and discussing throughout the new term. However, before we do that, here is a quick round-up of what everyone thought about this year’s Summer Read: Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad!

Continue reading “Colson Whitehead’s ‘The Underground Railroad’: The YSJ Big Summer Read 2018 Round-Up”

big summer read: a really radical mary?

This summer, the York St John Literature programme invited students and staff to read and respond to Colm Tóibín’s 2012 novella The Testament of Mary, a study of the mother of Jesus of Nazareth as she comes to terms with her son’s crucifixion at hands of the Roman Empire. In this post, Chris Maunder critiques Tóibín’s conservatism and points to more radical challenges to the Cult of Mary.


By Chris Maunder

I started this book with some relish. For many years, I have been a researcher of the cult of the Virgin Mary; I have written one book, edited another, written several articles on the topic, and there are more publications to come. I particularly like provocative work about Mary that is prepared to undermine some of the old myths: controversial feminist academics like Jane Schaberg and Mary Daly, for example, or authors of novels on Mary such as Michèle Roberts. I once introduced Dutch feminist Els Maeckelberghe’s Desperately Seeking Mary to a group of Catholic deacons in training; it so upset them that they refused to engage with it. I wasn’t invited back to speak the next year! I am by no means averse to upsetting the status quo. So why was I so disappointed with The Testament of Mary? Continue reading “big summer read: a really radical mary?”

big summer read: mary rewrites jesus of nazareth

This summer, the York St John Literature programme invited students and staff to read and respond to Colm Tóibín’s 2012 novella The Testament of Mary, a study of the mother of Jesus of Nazareth as she comes to terms with her son’s crucifixion at hands of the Roman Empire. Building upon Adam’s post yesterday, here Nicoletta Peddis explores the power of testament to subvert and undermine our perception of  a major biblical character.


By Nicoletta Peddis

Testament (n.) late 13c.: “last will disposing of property,” from Latin testamentum “a last will, publication of a will,” from testari “make a will, be witness to,” from testis “witness.” Used in reference to the two divisions of the Bible (early 14c) (…) subsequently was interpreted as Christ’s “last will.” (from Online Etymology Dictionary).

In the Gospels, the Virgin Mary is the personification of grace and suffering, the mater dolorosa who is largely voiceless. We know little about her, except for her virginity and her grief. Colm Tóibín’s short novel The Testament of Mary gives voice to Mary, subverting the traditional representation of Jesus’s mother and at the same time expanding the definition of the term testament. The Testament of Mary is her giving witness to, her attestation; “I was there,” she says. The fictional portrait that Tóibín creates of Mary breaks with tradition to deepen her humanity and to bring her down to earth, trying to understand her as a suffering woman and as a mother afflicted with a difficult son. Continue reading “big summer read: mary rewrites jesus of nazareth”

big summer read: gospel, testimony or testament?

This summer, the York St John Literature programme invited students and staff to read and respond to Colm Tóibín’s 2012 novella The Testament of Mary, a study of the mother of Jesus of Nazareth as she comes to terms with her son’s crucifixion at hands of the Roman Empire. In today’s post, Adam asks: Why is it called a ‘Testament’ anyway?


 

By Dr Adam James Smith

Much as Margaret Atwood’s 2008 novella The Penelopiad relished the opportunity to give voice to a woman too often left silent despite her centrality to both her myth of original and subsequent literary culture, Colm Tóibín clearly delights in offering centre stage to a woman without whom there would be no New Testament. Defined and iconicized as the Mother of Christ, Mary is most often understood through her maternal relationship to the son of God, rather than as an individual in her own right. Continue reading “big summer read: gospel, testimony or testament?”