William Gonch is the Managing Director of Scala Foundation and a Visiting Scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary. A writer and scholar of literature, he earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his M.A. in Creative Writing from Temple University. His dissertation, “Translating Grace: Postsecularity in Twentieth Century American Fiction,” explores the twentieth-century rise of fiction that sits between religious and secular discourses and aims to translate between them. He has presented his research at the American Literature Association, the Northeast Modern Language Association, the Conference on Christianity and Literature, and several other scholarly conferences and associations.
The canon wars are over, and the canon lost. But the canon’s defeat might not be a bad thing for readers and teachers who care about great books, because it allows us to offer franker, more interesting, and more compelling reasons to read them.
Marilynne Robinson’s “Jack” dives deep into the protagonist’s mind in order, paradoxically, to show how our lives mean things that are only apparent to other people. She depicts Jack’s redemption as something that occurs partly outside his conscious awareness. By giving us Jack’s consciousness illuminated but not wholly transformed by his wife Della’s love, Robinson achieves an artistic analogue to forgiveness.