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A Dream of Peace

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The American novelist John Gardner died in a motorcycle accident in 1982. His novels, in which death and guilt are brooding presences, continue to attract attention. This study reviews Gardner's life and work, examining how his own tragic past prodded him to explore life's deepest mysteries. It breaks new ground by demonstrating how the philosophies of Susanne Langer and Alfred North Whitehead greatly influenced his thought. Gardner wrote that fiction is a vivid and continuous dream. Drawing on the fields of philosophy, religion, psychology, anthropology, and ritual studies, it becomes clear that the vision he would have us dream is a vision of peace, a Whiteheadian notion that says life is meaningful despite the ongoing presence of intractable evils like death and guilt.
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About the Author

The Author: Ronald Grant Nutter recently gave up his position as an assistant professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Liteature to relocate and be with his physician wife. In addition to raising their two-year-old son he is pursuing research and writing opportunities while teaching an occasional course at a local college. He holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, where he concentrated his work in the interdisciplinary area of Religion and Literature.


Ronald Nutter's interpretation of John Gardner's fiction is at once informative and evocative. Referencing both ritual studies and Whiteheadian philosophy, it illuminates Gardner's fictive world. Here is how interdisciplinary study is meant to function. (Robert K. Johnston, Professor of Theology and Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary) Ronald Nutter's study successfully applies the ideas of Whitehead, Langer, and others to reveal the religious structures which organize John Gardner's fiction, and in so doing, brings into focus elements left obscure by earlier critical treatments. A decade and a half after Gardner's death, Nutter's study makes a strong case for the deep significance of Gardner's work and for his permanent importance in American literature. (Dean McWilliams, Professor of English, Ohio University)

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