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Theology and Literature in the Age of Johnson

Resisting Secularism

Edited by Melvyn New and Gerard Reedy S.J.

Theology and Literature in the Age of Johnson: Resisting Secularism contains seventeen essays exploring the complex relationships between literary intentions and theological concerns of authors writing in the second half of the eighteenth century. The diversity of literary forms and subjects, from Fielding and Richardson to Burke and Wollstonecraft, is matched by a diversity of approaches and theologies. To argue that the age “resisted secularism” is by no means to argue that resistance was blindly doctrinal or rigidly uniform. The many ways secularism could be resisted is the subject of the collection. « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 378Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-61149-400-6 • Hardback • June 2012 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-1-61147-697-2 • Paperback • March 2014 • $34.99 • (£23.95)
978-1-61149-401-3 • eBook • June 2012 • $34.99 • (£23.95)
Melvyn New is professor emeritus at the University of Florida.

Gerard Reedy, S. J., is university professor at Fordham University in New York.
Melvyn New, Introduction
1. Donald R. Wehrs, Novelistic Redemption and the History of Grace: Practical Theology and Literary
Form in Richardson’s Pamela and Fielding’s Joseph Andrews
2. John A. Dussinger, The Oxford Methodists (1733; 1738): The Purloined Letter of John Wesley at Samuel Richardson’s Press
3. Regina Janes, Henry Fielding Straddles a Moving Theme
4. E. Derek Taylor, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and the Problem of Heaven
5. Robert G. Walker, The Intellectual Background to Johnson’s Life of Browne: A Study of Johnsonian Construction
6. Patrick Muller. “But philosophy can tell no more”: Johnson’s Christian Moralism and the Genre of Rasselas
7. Steven Scherwatzky, Johnson’s Fallen World
8. Katherine Kickel, Aesthetics and Theology in Samuel Johnson’s Life of Isaac Watts and Prayers and Meditations (1785)
9. Nicholas Seager, Providence, Futurity, and Typology in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield
10. Geoff Newton, Divine and Human Love: Letters between John Norris and Mary Astell, Laurence Sterne and Eliza Draper
11. Ryan J. Stark, Tristram Shandy and the Devil
12. Brett C. McInelly, Methodists on the Move in The Spiritual Quixote
13. Paul Tankard, “A very agreable way of thinking”: Devotion and Doctrine in Boswell’s Religion
14. Deborah Heller, Bluestockings and Religion
15. Frans De Bruyn, Through a Glass Darkly”: Edmund Burke, Political Theology, and Literary Allusion
16. Roger D. Lund, The Bible in the Dock: Thomas Erskine, Thomas Paine, and the Trial of The Age of Reason
17. Nathalie Zimpfer, The Novel as the Art of Secular Scripture: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Feminist Gospel
"Intellectual histories of the Age of Johnson have tended to ignore the fact that religion and theology occupied the minds, as well as the hearts, of many of the best writers of the time, including Johnson himself. This volume of essays, focused on the intersection of theology and literature in the mid-to-late eighteenth century, addresses (and redresses) that longstanding distortion. With its stunning variety, depth, and sweep, this collection repositions not only Johnson, but many of his contemporaries, in a world they themselves would recognize. A long-needed corrective, this volume admirably achieves its mission of restoring religious thought and theological inquiry to the center of eighteenth-century literary studies."—
Elizabeth Kraft, Professor of English, University of Georgia

With the 17 essays collected in this sizable volume, New (emer., Univ. of Florida) and Reedy (Fordham Univ.) restate the importance of theology in later 18th-century culture. As the introduction argues, the literature of the time requires being read and understood in terms of its theology, especially as writers defended Christianity and perhaps more interestingly literature itself by resorting to technical points of doctrine and belief. The essays address the period in its breadth and variety, with Samuel Johnson at the center, and various treatments of figures and subjects as diverse as Richardson, Fielding, Methodism, the Bluestockings, Goldsmith, Sterne, Boswell, Burke, Paine, and Wollstonecraft. Overall, the scholarship is meticulous, presenting the writers and their particular engagements with theology in some detail. It is especially useful to be reminded that just as Johnson or Fielding engaged with theology in defense of more traditional morality, so did figures such as Paine or Wollstonecraft find themselves animated by theological controversy. As a result, the collection restores a historical sense of just how great the influence of theological discourse was on writers of every stamp during the late 18th century. Summing Up: Recommended.

The year 2012 was a fruitful one for scholarship on the relationship between religion and literature. The essays collected in Theology and Literature in the Age of Johnson: Resisting Secularism, edited by Melvyn New and Gerard Reedy, take their impetus from New’s entry on ‘Anglicanism’ in Samuel Johnson in Context, the main points of which—the dynamics of latitudinarianism, and eighteenth-century secularization and resistance to it—he rehearses in the present volume’s introduction, before turning to trace the fall and rise of secularist scholarship from its apogee in the 1960s to a recent renewal of interest in the religious contexts of eighteenth-century literature.
The Year's Work In English Studies