26 February 2010

Novels ‘not to be confused with sermons’ – noted author at Theological Institute

This week’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette [26 February 2010] carries the following report and photograph:

Novels ‘not to be confused with sermons’ – noted author at Theological Institute

Catherine Fox (2nd left) is pictured on her visit to the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, accompanied by her husband, Canon Peter Wilcox (left), and Institute staff, Canon Patrick Comerford (2nd right) and the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott, Director.

By Garret Casey

The author, columnist and Church historian, Catherine Fox, recently visited Dublin with her husband, Canon Peter Wilcox, and spoke at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute on the topic of ‘The Novelist as a Theologian’.

Ms Fox has written three novels, all set in the context of theological study or a life in ministry: Angels and Men, The Benefits of Passion and Love for the Lost.

In her talk, Ms Fox said that “the point of a novel is to entertain”. She continued: “When you entertain someone in your home, you invite them into your life for a certain space of time … when you publish a novel, you issue an invitation: ‘Come into my world’.”

She was critical of any suggestion that a novel should be about converting the reader to the author’s point of view: “The point of a novel is no to instruct, browbeat or convert the reader … novels are not to be confused with sermons or propaganda. A novel that is simply a showcase for the author’s ideology – with characters that are no more than mouthpiece es spouting the writer’s creed – that novel is so badly compromised it will never engage the readers. I doubt it will even find a publisher.”

On novels and theology, she said that “a novel may well embody theological concepts, just as it can embody political and philosophical ones.”

Ms Fox went on to expand on the idea: “It’s perfectly possible that theories of atonement and explorations of judgment and salvation may be incarnated in the nexus of human relationships portrayed in a novel; thus, the characters’ journeys – which is to say the plot – may be the mode of descent to earth and merging into the history of a doctrine.”

A similar report and photograph were published in the March 2010 edition of the Church Review (Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough).

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