Additional Activity to Accompany Lesson 5: ‘The True Nature of Celestial Love’

Kruger, Naomi orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0194-8333 (2023) Additional Activity to Accompany Lesson 5: ‘The True Nature of Celestial Love’. In: Banshee. Banshee Press, pp. 128-129. ISBN 9781739622725

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This experimental flash fiction (published in the literary journal Banshee Autumn/Winter 2023) is a darkly comic, satirical exploration of the kinds of activities and object lessons common in Sunday schools in many Conservative Christian denominations. It is presented as an appendix to a Sunday School lesson manual and provides a series of instructions for a grotesque object-lesson that will ensure the children who take part in it will never again be able to eat a slice of cake without being reminded of their distinct gender roles and strict moral duties.

This is also a piece of hermit crab fiction (a story in borrowed form), using something that would usually be informational as fiction, and something that would usually be supplementary (a paratext) as the central text. Readers don’t have access to the implied lesson this activity accompanies and can only try to imagine it from the clues given. This creates an uncanny space that is both absent and imaginable.

As well as readers having to navigate a kind of ‘empty text world’ (with no directly described narrator, character or scene) the story makes deliberate use of contrast in the objective, instructional tone of the appendix alongside an increasingly unsettling, unreasonable and disturbing set of possibilities. The use of footnotes adds to this sense of disruption (a paratext within a paratext) forcing the reader to move between different modes, and emphasising the interplay between authority and rebellion, control and chaos.

This story is part of a wider series of short fictions exploring the complexity of religious educative narrative traditions: parables, metaphors, object lessons and roleplay. I am interested in the performative and collaborative nature of many of these traditions, and the way they are used particularly for the instruction of children and young adults.

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