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Volume 40, Number 2 (2015)

“The Unavoidable Collision of Religion and Life”: Scots Presbyterianism in Alice Munro’s Fiction

May 11, 2016


Presbyterian theology, as conceived by John Calvin and John Knox, is an integral part of Alice Munro’s fictional world and the lack of knowledge about this kind of theological background may be an impediment to arriving at a full comprehension of many of her stories. Since the topic of Presbyterianism in Munro’s fiction is hugely important and expands beyond the scope of this article, the article focuses on three of the collections where it appears most prominently: Lives of Girls and Women, Friend of My Youth, and The View from Castle Rock. The article aims to show how the Scots Calvinistic doctrines of Munro´s ancestors provide an essential framework for the intellectual questing of the protagonists and narrators of her stories. To this end, it explores how the stories examine and hold up to scrutiny the dogmas of Calvinism summarized in the acronym T.U.L.I.P:  Total Depravation; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints. The article also offers an explanation for Munro´s allusions to the Covenanters in her collection Friend of My Youth in the light of the history of the Scottish Reformation.