Doris Lessing's "Shikasta", the integration of a biblical and scientific imagination

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Szadkowski, Katherine Isabel
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Doris Lessing's five-novel 'Canopus in Argos: Archives' series (1979-83) exposes the assumptions inherent in the distinctions we make between scientific and religious accounts of life in our universe. In the first novel of the 'Canopus' series, 'Shikasta, ' the only one of the five to focus exclusively on planet Earth, a series of biblical references, within a larger context which is fundamentally evolutionary, deliberately calls attention to the dynamic relationship between the Bible and science, a relationship which is intrinsic to the story of western civilization. Lessing leads her readers to a point at which the Bible and science intersect and diverge, that is, in the telling of the story of the history of the world. In 'Shikasta' Lessing plays with the definition of biblical narrative as myth, that is as story rather than as history. She creates a historical vision out of the biblical narratives from Genesis 1 and 6-19, and out of scientific narratives from astronomy, physics and biology, a vision which integrates the two great informing matrixes of western civilization: the Bible and science. 'Shikasta' is a novel that speaks out of a post-critical awareness of the story-form structure of all of our narratives. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)