The Enlightenment

Rhodri Lewis

in The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544486
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

The Enlightenment

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As is so often the case, the simpler the question, the more difficult it can be satisfactorily to answer it. This article explains why. It investigates: the meaning and usefulness of the term ‘Enlightenment’; the origins and evolution of British Enlightened thought, which emerged a number of decades before that of France or Scotland; and the animating role of theological debate, controversy, and speculation within this. It becomes clear that there was such a thing as a British, and specifically an English, Enlightenment, and that, far from being religiously iconoclastic, it was characterized by deep theological commitment. The article also sketches some aspects of the relationship between British Enlightened thought and literature. It happened at a time in which books, periodicals, and other printed materials were more widely available, and literary texts came both to shape and to animate the whole gamut of Enlightened thinking.

Keywords: Enlightenment; British Enlightened thought; theological debate; religious iconoclasm; France; Scotland

Article.  8873 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Christianity ; Religious Studies

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