Associate Professor of English Tiffany Eberle Kriner’s latest publication, The Future of the Word: An Eschatology of Reading
, arrived on July 1st from Fortress Press. The Future of the Word
emerged, says Dr. Kriner, out of a question about reading as a vocation: how does God use our reading in and for his kingdom? And just like any good question should, this one soon prompted “an even bigger pile of questions,” explains Kriner. “If the whole world has a future in the expanding love of the Trinity as God makes everything new in his kingdom, then that means that books have a future too. But what about the evil books? Or the well-meaning, but poorly written books? What sort of future do they have? And how does our reading of books play into that future?” These questions led Kriner to the main argument of The Future of the Word
: that texts have futures in the kingdom of God, and reading is one way God lets us participate in the future of the word and in the kingdom of God.
Kriner’s hope is that readers will discover answers to their own questions about what that claim means. Her eschatological questioning leads us on a merry (and thought-provoking) chase that alternates between theological arguments and sections in which she brings literature out to play with that theology. Kriner’s intent is not for the literature to illustrate the theological point as much as experiment with it, encouraging readers to “take the theology out for a spin in their own reading.”
In pursuit of her question about the future and purpose of all kinds of books, Kriner reads and responds to a wide variety of texts. “I hope,” she says, “readers will find a measure of fun in the crazy juxtaposition of texts I read (from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
to Oliver Twist
, from Lolita
to Redeeming Love
(an inspirational romance novel), from Henry James to Haruki Murakami.” Readers will also encounter Milton’s Aeropagitica
, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s protest poetry, and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America
The Future of the Word
addresses newly minted literary scholars of faith who are still wondering how the preeminence of Christ manifests itself in their work. The book, says Kriner, is also relevant to more seasoned scholars who, like herself, “might have gotten into a bit of a slough of despond in work.” With eclectic readings and hopeful theology, she spurs readers of all kinds on to celebrate the kingdom of God and the Word that creates, sustains, and expands that kingdom.