Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Margaret Kilcline

Committee Member

Drew Lopenzina

Committee Member

Laura Buchholz


Annie Dillard’s third-ever publication, Holy the Firm, asks why an omniscient God allows natural evil to occur. In this deeply poetic and mystical series of essays, Dillard explores the relationship between time, artistry, and God in the face of devastating chaos. This thesis argues that Dillard’s emphasis on the importance of time reflects a Jewish notion of Sabbath as defined by Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel. Dillard offers time and creation as medium through which to commune with God just as Heschel does in his book, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man. Heschel defines Sabbath as the coming together of humanity and God through the sanctification and elevation of time; one way this sanctification and elevation is accomplished is through the divine ability to create, a trait humanity and God share. Up until this point, critics have primarily, and justifiable so, considered Dillard’s work through a through the perspective of Christian mysticism, but Dillard’s elevation of time makes her work compatible with Jewish mysticism as well. Using the critical scaffolding of Heschel’s Sabbath, Dillard’s mystical experiences in Holy the Firm can be understood as an intense spiritual journey to find compassion in the midst of suffering as Dillard considers what it means to create and be created within her three narrative essays.


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