Document Type

Book Chapter


Religion (CGU)

Publication Date



African American Studies | Arts and Humanities | Biblical Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Religion


Literature, especially religious literature, ideally aims to trigger degrees of empathy in readers who share a particular universe of meaning, with the goal of entertaining, provoking, challenging, and persuading. The literary text that has achieved something of the status of a "classic" is one that has consistently--that is, "beyond its time...beyond its space"--proved to be engaging and empathetic, consistently challenging and inspiring the spirit, provoking thoughts and arresting the imagination of those generally sharing a universe of meaning, or culture. But such texts, precisely because of their empathy-producing qualities, should also inspire among readers again and again over time a certain suspicious posture, the cultivation of certain critical sensibilities an faculties--such faculties that will allow them to see themselves chronologically and ideologically distant and different from both "the tyranny of the present" and the texts and text-worlds if only in order to return to these texts with a grasp of cultural or communal clarity of interpretive history. The distancing and the recognition of difference are imperative in order that "classics" or "canonical" texts not be "defined" or made meaningful solely by one interpreting group within a culture or by one interpreting generation for all time.

Rights Information

© 1995 Augsburg Fortress Publishers