Embracing the other : Christian cosmopolitanism in Tolstoy and O'Connor
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In this paper, I am suggesting that instead of using a traditional definition of cosmopolitanism, such as “thinking and feeling beyond the nation” (Cheah and Robbins) or “pluralism” plus “fallibilism” (Appiah), we consider instead Yale theologian Miroslav Volf’s term “embrace” as the framework for expanding our understanding of cosmopolitanism. This term is linked to standard interpretations of cosmopolitanism through its emphasis on hybridity and openness, but it differs in its undeniably religious implications. By applying Volf’s theoretical framework to concrete literary examples – namely, Lev Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Il’ich and Flannery O’Connor’s “Greenleaf” – it becomes clear that Ivan Il'ich’s and Mrs. May’s identity-shaping (religious) encounters with the “Other” are an opening up – or hybridizing – of their identities. This paper concludes that in Volf’s view, and Tolstoy’s and O’Connor’s as well, religious affinity is an impetus and not a hindrance to cosmopolitanism.