Journal Article

‘THE RECONCEIVING OF CHRISTIANITY’: SECULARISATION, REALISM AND THE RELIGIOUS NOVEL: 1888–1900

Lynne Hapgood

in Literature and Theology

Volume 10, issue 4, pages 329-350
Published in print December 1996 | ISSN: 0269-1205
e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/10.4.329
‘THE RECONCEIVING OF CHRISTIANITY’: SECULARISATION, REALISM AND THE RELIGIOUS NOVEL: 1888–1900

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The argument is concered with the contribution of fiction to the secularisation of religion and, in particular, with the development in fiction of a secular religious discourse. The literacy tradition under scrutiny is Victorian social realism and the religious context is the perceived failure of the Church oof England to address the needs of the working classes and the challenge of Socialism and other materialist philosophies in the late Victorian period.

A group of ‘social redemption’ novels is used to interrogate these issues, and the significant influences underlying the complex historical, sociological and religious lanscape in which they are located are indentified. The use of fiction as reconciler of spiritual, material and political conflict within society and the status of novels as religious and doctrinal authority are investigated. Questions about the relationship between intellectual inquiry and resolution through feeling in the novel form are explored.

Finally, the attempt of realistic fiction to dismantle Christian symbolism in order to materialise its social meaning through secular structures or to merge spiritual and political discourses by articulating Christian eithics through soicialist terminology is exmained and its achivement evaluated.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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