Making Believe: Reflections

This seminal new book--part intellectual autobiography, part theoretical exploration--probes issues of representation in Mennonite literture and art.

In Making Believe (Univ. of Manitoba Press, 2020), Magdalene Redekop builds on Mary Louise Pratt's concept of the "contact zone" to describe the place of creative cross-fertilization that she believes gives rise to art, especially for artists from sectarian backgrounds where religious belief provides the predominant narrative and world view. Redekop's focus is on artists from Mennonite background, particularly in Canada; Warren Rohrer is one of the few US Mennonite artists who appears in her study.

While most of Redekop's examples and material arise from an in-depth study of historical and cultural forces in a particular place and context, her theorizing is more broadly applicable. The concept of "spielraum" [playroom], borrowed from Michel de Certeau, is key to her understanding of Mennonite art and complements the term "positive marginality" that Lois Gray used in her formation of the Creative Mennonites Discussion Group. In fact, the discussion group provided a "spielraum" in which participants could play "making believe" together while examining the beliefs that had "made" their world views.

Redekop asks, "[H]ow then do we affirm and experience the joy of community in art without acting out our erasure of others?" (54). In sectarian communities, the edges and boundaries are the places where nonconforming members of the group can be found, artists often among them. But instead of finding these edges as places of threatened exile, Redekop celebrates them as "contact zones" full of the possibility of connection.

According to Redekop, "Art authorizes a Spielraum, a playing space that makes possible the creation of communities that are interactive and open, multiple, and overlapping. Different kinds of art do this in different ways, but all are defined sites where we make believe together" (55).

--Ann Hostetler

Here are links to some current reviews of Redekop's work:

Lauren Friesen, for Mennonite Quarterly Review

Gorden Houser, for Canadian Mennonite

Susan Huebert, for Winnipeg Free Press

Other reviews can also be found on the Making Believe facebook page, linked here.

About the Author

Magdalene Redekop

Magdalene Redekop is the author of Making Believe: Questions about Mennonites and Art (2020). Redekop taught English at the University of Toronto for 35 years. Redekop's other publications include Mothers and Other Clowns: The Stories of Alice Munro (1992) and a biography of Ernest Thompson Seton (1979). She has published articles on Mennonite culture and contributed a chapter to After Identity: Mennonites Writing in North America. Redekop sometimes performs comic monologues in the persona of "Sush Funk," a Plautdietsch-inflected Mennonite woman. See this video. Her essay, "The Mother Tongue in Cyberspace," a reflection on the influence of orality in Mennonite writing, appeared in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Mennonite Writing. She was born and raised in a rural Mennonite community in southern Manitoba, part of the 1870s immigration from Ukraine.