Degree Year

2001

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

Sandra Zagarell

Keywords

Raymond Carver, Transcendence, Literature

Abstract

This is an essay about reading Raymond Carver. It deals mostly with his work in general rather than with what individual stories mean or exemplify. My aim is to describe and understand the experience of Carver that I had upon my first reading. I will show how reading Raymond Carver can be a spiritual experience, and, in fact, was for me. The reading experience becomes spiritual when readers exchange meaning with the characters through identification and by doing so consider themselves in such a way that they fully embrace the patterns of their lives and manage to transcend them. Because this is an essay based on experience and the feeling imparted by the stories, it is not focused entirely on texts. The experience that I will discuss happens in interaction with the stories but mostly outside of them and therefore is not well suited to close readings and textual examination. In fact, these approaches exist contrary to my purpose, which is to highlight an immediate experience that is only possible to reflect upon once the reader is "beyond" the text.

I will use the theological work of Paul Tillich and Ludwig Feuerbach to illuminate a spiritual reading of Carver. I do this, hoping not to impose their theories on Carver but to use their language (since my own will often fall short) to explicate an experience that was already present in my reading before I began to examine it. Tillich's ideas on ultimate concern will provide a background for my understanding of Carver's fiction as spiritual and for viewing humanity as alienated from our realities, a condition which is temporarily soothed through reading Carver. Feuerbach articulates a belief in species consciousness that sets up humans as essentially relational and provides a context for understanding the identification with Carver's characters that is necessary in reaching transcendence.

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