9. ‘Seeking’ as the ‘Soul of the Plot’: An Analysis of Three Vernacular Narratives
Steven J. Sutcliffe [+]
University of Edinburgh
I argue that the role of the ‘seeker’ and practices of ‘seeking’, especially (but not only) in the field of New Spiritualities, constitute a late modern tradition of practice. Rather than a personal and idiosyncratic form of behaviour with minimal salience, seeking is better understood as a collective mode of thought and practice by means of which receptive subjects adapt to the radical pluralisation of late modern religious authorities. To support my case I discuss three vernacular biographies from different regions of the UK as post-1945 case studies. Drawing on a theoretical framework based in the work of Vladimir Propp and Walter Burkert, I argue that, despite substantive differences, each biography shares a common structure of a search for symbolic goods in the face of multiple competing authorities. I conclude that seeking is a late modern vernacular tradition with historical and anthropological roots.