Rainbow Valley as Embodied Heaven: Initial Explorations into L.M. Montgomery’s Spirituality in Fiction

Dear Friends, I am excited to announce the release of my paper, “Rainbow Valley as Embodied Heaven: Initial Explorations into L.M. Montgomery’s Spirituality in Fiction” in the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies. This is a peer-reviewed, scholarly article in the free open-source journal for the L.M. Montgomery Institute. The paper grew out of my paper at the 2018 conference in Charlottetown, PE and weaves in a bit of playfulness in the writing and my approach.

Montgomery was a writer of realistic fiction, and yet she has fantastic elements of romance and fairytale all throughout her work. In following Montgomery as she exercises her “Passport to the Geography of Fairyland,” I think we see something of what she believed to be good, true, and beautiful. With a method of sorts set out, I then do a close reading of Rainbow Valley, a book that has surprising themes and dialogues about heaven. Whatever Montgomery might or might not be saying about a doctrine of heaven in Rainbow Valley, a close reading of the text shows that the character of Rainbow Valley as an imaginative fairyland is such that it invites a transformational understanding of spiritual life.

And this is my primary scholarly interest in Montgomery: an adventure of reading to understand how she imagines healthy spirituality in her fiction. With the same kind of interest in mind, last year I published a paper called “C.S. Lewis’s Theory of Sehnsucht as a Tool for Theorizing L.M. Montgomery’s Experience of ‘The Flash’” in The Faithful Imagination, edited by Joe Ricke and Ashley Chu. That paper is a tighter and more substantial version of my presentation at the 2018 Francis White Ewbank Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends at Taylor University.

While the Lewis-Montgomery paper on mystical, numinous joy is a relatively standard study of a theme, “Rainbow Valley as Embodied Heaven” is an experiment. There, I attempt to turn from the study of religion or theology as a systematic, doctrinal approach to the study of spirituality–how the authors invite us to imagine living fully and well, as Eugene Peterson describes it in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. It is also my first foray into Montgomery’s WWI-haunted Four Winds trilogy, Anne’s House of Dreams (1917), Rainbow Valley (1919), and Rilla of Ingleside (1920). Ultimately, I envision a trilogy of papers, with the second piece on Anne’s House of Dreams accepted for the 2020 L.M. Montgomery Institute conference. Though the conference is cancelled, I will still work on the piece–“Making Friends with the Darkness: L.M. Montgomery’s Popular Theodicy in Anne’s House of Dreams”–for one of the upcoming digital conference events (see here).

I hope you enjoy the paper, share with friends, and provide any feedback you think would be helpful.

Rainbow Valley as Embodied Heaven: Initial Explorations into L.M. Montgomery’s Spirituality in Fiction by Brenton D.G. Dickieson

Abstract: Intriguingly, L.M. Montgomery’s generally realistic fiction is filled with fantastic elements. This article argues that by following Montgomery into the heavenly fairyland of Rainbow Valley, readers can discern a joyful, creative, imaginative, and integrated image of spiritual life in the conversations, the characters, and the magic valley itself.

Here are the powerpoint slides I used at each of my Montgomery talks in 2018:

Sehnsucht and the Flash

In Her Own Tongue-LMM & Spirituality-LMMI2018

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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18 Responses to Rainbow Valley as Embodied Heaven: Initial Explorations into L.M. Montgomery’s Spirituality in Fiction

  1. lolalwilcox says:

    I enjoyed reading this as the tone was light and the scholarship thorough. It was a little like filling in the backstory to what I already knew. If I’d ever been asked “What is L.M.Montgomery’s faith” I would not have answered Protestant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lola, I am delayed in responding but got the notification with some pleasure. I haven’t gone much into her “religion,” purposefully, because though Christian religion is at the heart and surface of these Anne stories, I feel like she personally pulls back and lets the story speak.


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