In Search of Soul explores the meaning of “soul” in sacred and profane incarnations, from its biblical origins to its central place in the rich traditions of black and Latin history. Surveying the work of writers, artists, poets, musicians, philosophers and theologians, Alejandro Nava shows how their understandings of the “soul” revolve around narratives of justice, liberation, and spiritual redemption. He contends that biblical traditions and hip-hop emerged out of experiences of dispossession and oppression. Whether born in the ghettos of America or of the Roman Empire, hip-hop and Christianity have endured by giving voice to the persecuted. This book offers a view of soul in living color, as a breathing, suffering, dreaming thing.
PART ONE: SACRED HISTORIES OF THE SOUL
1 In Search of Soul
2 On Hebrew Soul: De Eloquentia Vulgaria
3 Christian Soul and the Revolt of the Slave
PART TWO: PROFANE ACCENTS OF SOUL
4 In Search of Duende: Lorca on Spanish Soul
5 The Souls of Black Folk: Ralph Ellison’s Tragicomic Portrait
6 From Soul to Hip-Hop: The Rise of the Apocalypse
7 Afro-Latin Soul and Hip-Hop
Alejandro Nava is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Arizona and author of Wonder and Exile in the New World and The Mystical and Prophetic Thought of Simone Weil and Gustavo Gutierrez.
“Alejandro Nava’s In Search of Soul is a learned and personal book. It excavates the vast territory of soul as a concept both in theology and in culture, spanning sacred and profane expressions in literature and music. Nava writes with easy erudition, equally at home in the pages of Nietzsche as in the phrases of Nas.”—Adam Bradley, author of The Poetry of Pop
“When asked to offer an example of ambitious, thought-provoking, rigorous scholarship, I submit this book as Exhibit A. Nava studies what he calls ‘the grammar of the soul’ through a variety of cultural artifacts, from the Bible to slave worldviews in Judaism and Christianity, to the work of Federico García Lorca and Ralph Ellison, and to the music, particularly the Black and Latin American traditions that are his passion and true schooling, of rap and hip-hop. He does all this with assurance and acumen, which allows him to achieve his goals handsomely. Frankly, I am not only grateful but jealous—I wish I had written it myself.”—Ilan Stavans, author of Quixote: The Novel and the World and editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature