The Forsaken Son
The Forsaken Son
The Forsaken Son engages the provocative coincidence of the vocabularies of infanticide and Christianity, specifically atonement theology, in six modern American novels: Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away, the first two installments of John Updike’s Rabbit tetralogy, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Joyce Carol Oates’s My Sister, My Love, and Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark.
Christian atonement theology explains why God lets His son be crucified. Yet in recent years, as an increasing number of scholars have come to reject that explanation, the cross reverts from saving grace to trauma—or even crime. More bluntly, without atonement, the cross may be a filicide, in which God forces his son to die for no apparent reason. Pederson argues that the novels about child murder mentioned above likewise give voice to modern skepticism about traditional atonement theology.
—Paul J. Contino, coauthor of Bakhtin and Religion: A Feeling for Faith
"Pederson’s study makes a significant contribution to the growing field of post secular literary studies. Contrary to formerly dominant narratives purporting that modernity was characterized by the thoroughgoing disenchantment of American culture, Pederson adeptly demonstrates that theological concerns were, and remain, a central and consistent preoccupation of the nation’s leading novelists. Pederson also commendably eschews critical concerns about the intentional fallacy and a discourse beholden to the death of the author. Instead, he ably returns to a form of biographical criticism that shows how each author’s upbringing and complicated personal relationship with Christianity fundamentally influences the content of their art and their take on American culture." —Christianity and Literature
"This study is ambitious and full of conviction; its research is thorough, and its central argument convincing and stimulating." —ALH Online Review