Writer of the ineffable : the paradoxical role of Annie Dillard
While extensive analysis has been written exploring the presence of mysticism in the works of Annie Dillard, little work has emerged which pinpoints her particular mystic sources and demonstrates how Dillard's work uses concepts from these sources. This paper is intended to fill in that gap. This project is the result of extensive research of both Dillard's works, (especially "Tickets for a Prayer Wheel," Pilgrim at Tinker Creek , and For the Time Being ) and her Eastern Orthodox Christian mystic sources ( The Philokalia and The Way of a Pilgrim , and tangentially, Gregory Palamas). This paper examines how Dillard's Christian mystic sources help her to navigate the challenge of writing about supposedly "ineffable" subject matter: through references to and performance of hesychasm, wrestling with God's hidden presence, theophany, unceasing prayer, via positiva, and via negativa, Dillard "speaks around" what she cannot speak directly. This project also attempts to situate Dillard's work within both William James' and Grace Jantzen's discussions of the issue of ineffability, ultimately concluding that Dillard's writing both addresses the problem of God's unknowable and therefore unspeakable essence, as well as undertaking the task of articulating her own "mystical experience." This project is an essential supplement to existing critical examinations of Dillard's use of the mystical in her work, linking her panentheist religious philosophy to the Eastern Orthodox Christian mystic sources whose ideas continue to define her writing career.