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Signs Taken for Wonders: Adverts and Sacraments in Chesterton's London

MARK KNIGHT
The Yearbook of English Studies
Vol. 39, No. 1/2, Literature and Religion (2009), pp. 126-136
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25679865
Page Count: 11
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Signs Taken for Wonders: Adverts and Sacraments in Chesterton's London
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Abstract

Religious readings of culture are often attacked for their monolithic tendencies, with critics complaining that the multiple meaning of signs are too easily mistaken for wonders that are then read in one univocal way. Although such criticisms find plenty of historical precedents, a similar preference for the one over the many is evident throughout the interpretative systems that dominate the modern world. As theologians such as Colin Gunton have argued, the theological tradition offers unique resources for reading culture differently. Focusing on the imaginative account of the modern metropolis provided by G. K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904), this essay considers these theological resources further. In place of the monolithic reading symbolized by modern advertising, Chesterton explores the possibilities of sacramental reading, locating it within a broader theological framework that enables us to interpret the world without sacrificing the needs of the one or the many.

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