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In bed with the word - Daniel Coleman

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In bed with the word - reading, spirituality, and cultural politics
Daniel Coleman
Paperback / softback
University of Alberta Press
UK Publication Date

While reading is a deeply personal activity, paradoxically, it is also fundamentally social and outward-looking. Daniel Coleman, a lifelong reader and professor of literature, combines story with meditation to reveal this paradox and illustrate why, more than ever, we need this special brand of "quiet time" in our lives. In Bed with the Word sparks with every conceivable enticement for those who worry about living in a culture of distraction and who long to reconnect with something deeper.

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Daniel Coleman is Professor of Canadian Literature, Canada Research Chair, Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University. His creative memoir on reading, spirituality, and cultural politics, In Bed with the Word, came out in 2009 to wide acclaim. He lives in Hamilton.

"We are very good at understanding, analyzing, and deconstructing what texts say, but we are much less inclined to explore how religious people touch, hold, mark, underline, cut, copy, carry, discuss, highlight, and dog-ear those texts (to explore, in short, how people read). Onto such fertile interpretive ground, Daniel Coleman's brief, but rich, reflection on reading charts several intellectual pathways that scholars can follow in studying this dense cultural practice.... Drawing upon literary theory, classical theology, social history, and personal anecdote, Coleman argues that reading creates a kind of internal interpretive space that becomes filled with the inescapable paradoxes of the human experience.... Between isolation and community, presence and absence, and meaning and mystery is a chasm that reading, again paradoxically, 'emphasizes and bridges' (72). And the ways in which reading emphasizes and bridges these tensions, Coleman continues, are inextricably spiritual and political.... 'In Bed With the Word' is recommended reading for anyone who is personally or academically interested in reading's enduring social importance." - Christopher D. Cantwell, Newberry Library, The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, July 2011

"Coleman is a storyteller. He writes with an ease that brings to life his stories of pilgrim-readers on the path to personal and social transformation. Infused with creativity and playfulness, Colemans arguments are also carefully crafted. He draws on the work of figures such as Plato, Augustine and Derrida to validate his points. He provides a fair assessment of reading, acknowledging the instances where it has been used to suppress and/or exclude.... Coleman has succeeded in presenting an original exploration of reading as a catalyst for personal and socio-political transformation.... The book would be an excellent addition to upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses that examine spirituality, culture and social change. With its evocative examples and array of perspectives, it should provoke interesting and challenging class discussions." Lauren Michelle Levesque, Studies in Religion 40(4)

"In Bed with the Word isn't for everyone, but it'll become a touchstone for an awful lot of people. Spiritual readers will adore this book, I think, meaning 'spiritual' in its conventional sense as approximately the same as 'religious,' but non-believing readers who spend some time with it, deliberately vulnerable and open to its conversation, may become its biggest fans. I can't recommend this book strongly enough, to anyone interested in the practice or value of reading." book addiction, Sept 2012

"Such is the power of reading that it not only nourishes spirituality and enables us to see beyond the limitations of our own experience; it also reinvigorates our cultural politics, says Coleman. The dialogue shared between an author and those who read can change the ways in which we are in the world and produce people empowered to live for justice and compassion. Through dialogue with poetry, history, memoir and fiction, Daniel Coleman demonstrates how spirituality and social change are supported through the disarmingly simple, yet deeply subversive practice of reading. In Bed with the Word invites us into conversation with an author who approaches the world with interest and generosity, handles words with skill and great care, and eagerly extends an invitation to allow ourselves to be transformed and connected by what we read. I realized it had done its work in me when I found myself making plans to read it aloud with friends. It is a deeply satisfying read." Barbara Mutch, Carey Theological College

"Coleman presents vignettes of individuals and their own personal encounters with books at pivotal moments in their lives. A young boy of six in his first days at boarding school, feeling lost and alone, curls up in his bed with the King James Bible to recreate a morning ritual that was modeled by his parents. Even though he does not yet read, he understands the comfort of books. Elsewhere in the world, a curious eight-year-old Trinidadian girl, looking for a hidden cache of sweet treats in her grandmother's linen drawer, discovers instead a book on the 1791 Haitian revolution that explains her own past and determines her eventual emergence as a writer (Dionne Brand) examining the cultural politics of African dislocation and the trauma of slavery. Coleman goes on to present others whose reading encounters have created seismic shifts in their interior worlds and have surfaced back into their daily lives, that have at once become both mirror and ocean." Margaret Anne Fehr, Prairie Books Now, Spring 2009

Keyword Index
Books and reading - Religious aspects.|Books and reading - Sociological aspects.|Spirituality.|Politics and culture.
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