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1. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 3
Brian Barbour The Crucifix and the Post: A Note on the Christian Theme in Gulliver’s Travels
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An unremarked major theme in Gulliver's Travels is, Why does Gulliver lose his Christian faith? In Part III he is a devout Anglican who unlike Dutch Calvinists will not disrespect the crucifix, even at the cost of not being allowed to return home. In Part IV he dismisses the crucifix as a "post," a thing "indifferent." What has happened is made clear in Chap. VII where Gulliver's reveals his parodic or inverted conversion to the ruling principle of the Houyhnhnms, that "Reason alone is sufficient to govern a rational creature." For Swift that disastrous alone is a grave error, linking the earlier errors of the Reformation - sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura - with the coming darkness of the Enlightenment. Gulliver's loss of faith is predictive of the next phase of European intellectual life.
2. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 3
J. Daniel Batt Do This in Remembrance of Me: Bits and Pieces in Re-membering the Body
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Written 136 years apart, Melville’s Moby Dick and Morrison’s Beloved explore the scriptural tension between the material and spiritual. Against two different American landscapes, each work explores incarnation as both manifestations of the divine and the Word given flesh—two uniquely separate functions. Throughout the stages of Queequeg’s and Baby Suggs life, and other characters, as well, the stages of archetypal incarnation are expressed amongst two distinct populations, similar first in their need for incarnated divinity. Ultimately, these incarnations ask us to see the divine in our physical bodies, now—new bodies for new Words.
3. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 3
Julie Ooms “A private holy spirit in small letters”: Sylvia Plath’s Secular-Age Religion
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Scholars regularly read Sylvia Plath biographically, but few have focused on her religious beliefs and their manifestation in her work. This essay explores Plath’s ideas about religion, and about Christianity in particular, as they are articulated in college papers, in her journals, and in her fiction. It argues, finally, that Plath’s wrestling with Christian religious ideas is that of the kind of “cross-pressured” believer characterized by Charles Taylor; she is a humanist atheist tempted by belief.
4. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 3
Notes on Contributors
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5. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
Geoffrey Reiter “New Knowledge of Lost Worlds”?: Edward Hitchcock’s “Sandstone Bird” and the Poetic Exploration of Science and Faith
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In contemporary academic circles, the fields of science, theology, and literature may be compartmentalized with relatively little interaction. However, such distinctions were less rigid in the early nineteenth century. One of the figures whose writings stretched across these disciplinary boundaries was Edward Hitchcock, a world-renowned geologist and president of Amherst College who also had extensive theological training. Now best-known among paleontologists for his discovery of fossil footprints in the Connecticut River Valley, Hitchcock made use of his considerable talents in an 1836 poem entitled “The Sandstone Bird.” This poem—often known to historians of science but little remarked among students of American literature—effectively uses formal verse to draw out theological dimensions to the prehistoric world conjured up by Hitchcock’s own paleontological discoveries.
6. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
Todd Copeland Learning to Be a Failure: Tropes of Transformation in James Wright’s The Branch Will Not Break
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Challenged by personal suffering and new influences, American poet James Wright dramatically changed the character of his poetry during the years between the respective publications of Saint Judas (1959) and The Branch Will Not Break (1963). The nature of this poetic evolution can be traced in Wright’s treatment of a few frequently employed images of transformation, specifically those involving blossoms and jewels—the energies of which are alternatingly embodied by the poet or found to be unavailable to him.
7. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
Robert Lance Snyder Confession Versus Collusion: Truth-Telling in John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field
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In Agent Running in the Field (2019), his final novel, John le Carré reprises elements of his post-Cold War critique of transnational espiocratic duplicity and collusion, while also emphasizing the moral imperative of principle-driven constancy and confession as an antidote to the pathology of infection he associates with contemporary geopolitics. His virtuosity in tackling this theme, one also addressed though differently in A Legacy of Spies (2017), validates fellow author Ian McEwan’s assessment that le Carré “will be remembered as perhaps the most significant novelist” of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in Britain.
8. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
David V. Urban Slender Self-Knowledge: Tragic Consequences and Redemptive Hope in Shakespeare’s King Lear and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
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This essay argues that King Lear’s tragedy is largely brought about by Lear’s lack of self-knowledge, a character defect that long precedes the foolish decisions he makes in King Lear’s opening scene and which precipitates his own death and the deaths of those he loves. Lear’s lack of self-knowledge encourages Shakespeare’s audience to have sympathy for Goneril and Regan and to recognize that Lear’s beautiful progress of redemption is mitigated by his failure to ever recognize his longstanding wrongdoing against his elder daughters. By contrast, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s humble choice to learn and be humbled by Darcy’s letter empowers Elizabeth to achieve self-knowledge at a youthful age even as it brings happiness and numerous redemptive benefits to herself and to those whom she loves.
9. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
Notes on Contributors
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10. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Craig Woelfel, Jayme Stayer Introduction: Modernism and the Turn to Religion
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This Introduction contextualizes the volume in modernist tensions between belief and unbelief, and subsequent debates about the nature of secularization. An opening moment considers Pound and Woolf’s rejection of T. S. Eliot’s religious conversion as emblematic of a “subtraction” theory of secularization, in which secularity and religious belief are taken as mutually exclusive horizons of understanding. Such thinking, it is argued, has precluded a more nuanced approach. Criticism has largely ignored more complex and fragmentary religious dimensions of modernist production; or, on the other hand, taken up religion only in the narrow and anachronistic sense of traditional Christianity. This volume attempts to explore the religious dimensions of modernism in a more modernist sense: taking modernist art as a critical liminal space for exploring new modes of religious experience in complex and resonant ways -- often in open rejection of traditional modes of faith, and in authors beyond the usual suspects.
11. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Anderson Araujo After Many Gods: T. S. Eliot and the Nagging Question of Ezra Pound’s Beliefs
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In January 1928, The Dial published T. S. Eliot’s review of Personae: The Collected Poems of Ezra Pound (1926). Even as he acknowledges his indebtedness to his fellow American poet-critic, Eliot seems bewildered by Pound’s belief system, which in his estimation is a heady mix of mysticism, occultism, pseudoscience, and Confucianism. With a touch of exasperation, he ends the review by asking provocatively, “what does Mr. Pound believe?” Although he would never give an answer that Eliot would find satisfying, Pound would revisit the question time and again in his prose and poetry. In the process, he reveals more about his eccentric set of creeds than even Eliot might have bargained for. Striving to synthesize a range of philosophical and polytheistic traditions, Pound would cast off the Presbyterianism of his early youth. From the 1930s onward, his deepening affiliation with Italian Fascism and near-cultic devotion to Mussolini would add yet another layer to his spectrum of beliefs. With Eliot’s query in The Dial functioning as a recurring point of reference, this essay examines Pound’s religious beliefs as a shifting panoply of mythico-theological, aesthetic, and political ideas. The picture that emerges is as complex as it is difficult to pin down, blurring the boundaries of what constitutes “faith” itself.
12. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Mark Knight Wells, Chesterton, and a Theology of Semi-detached Reading
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This article engages with the work of John Plotz on our experience of being caught between two worlds as we read—a world of fiction that partially absorbs us, and the actual world, to which we remain attached. Noting the lack of attention Plotz pays to religion as he writes about semi-detachment, I respond by developing a theology of semidetached reading. To think through the contribution that theology offers, I turn to two works of fiction: H. G. Wells’s “The Plattner Story” (1896) and G. K. Chesterton’s The Man who was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908). In doing so, I recognize the very different ways in which Wells and Chesterton tease out the strange mix of secular and religious experience that is so important for those who want to understand religion in the modern world. As I go on to argue, paying attention to theology allows to register particular narratives in which people traverse these worlds and seek to hold different threads of meaning together. A theology of semidetached reading can also shed light on the ways in which different worlds are configured, as well as helping us to navigate points of conflict as we move between them.
13. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Pericles Lewis The Burial of the Dead in Mann’s The Magic Mountain
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During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, readers of modernist literature have often been reminded of the flu epidemic of 1918-1920. Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain (1924) anatomizes pre-war bourgeois society as represented by the inmates of a tuberculosis asylum in Davos, Switzerland. The novel typifies a concern in modernist fiction with the proper rites for the burial of the dead, which I explored in an earlier study, Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel. This essay argues that that Mann sees the novel, as a genre, as having a particular ability to represent the process of mourning because of its powers of ironic distancing: it can represent both the public ritual of the funeral service and the private thoughts of the mourner, which may or may not accord with official sentiment. More generally, the modern novel shows how we project our own desires and fears onto the dead.
14. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Stephen Kern Modernist Ambivalence about Christianity
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Kern argues that the responses of Friedrich Nietzsche, James Joyce, André Gide, D. H. Lawrence, and Martin Heidegger to Christianity made up a Weberian ideal type. Accordingly: They all were raised as Christians but lost their faith when they began university studies. They all criticized the impact that they believed the anti-sexual Christian morality, with its emphasis on sin, had had, or threatened to have, on their love life. For that reason they were militantly anti-Christian but also ambivalent about Christianity. They worked to replace the loss of Christian unity with non-Christian unifying projects in literature and philosophy. Virginia Woolf, who was raised as an atheist, conformed to many of these elements of the ideal type but added another in criticizing the fragmenting patriarchal society that supported the dominant patriarchal Church of England. She envisioned new man-womanly and woman-manly types who could cultivate their understanding and love for one another in less polarizing and more humanizing ways.
15. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Notes on Contributors
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16. Renascence: Volume > 72 > Issue: 4
Sunil Macwan Populist Improvisation: A Reading of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great in the Context of the Coronavirus Pandemic
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Successfully creating polarizing narratives, several populist leaders have come to dominate the global political sphere in recent times. However, the coronavirus pandemic has raised serious questions over their ability to respond to its challenges effectively. Whether they will remain in power after the pandemic is an intriguing question. The key to understanding the dynamics of power among populist leaders lies in analyzing the tactics they employ for the appropriation of political power. In this context, reading Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (1587) can play an important role. This essay, therefore, argues that through a unique characterization of Tamburlaine the Great, Marlowe critiques Queen Elizabeth’s aggressive political maneuvers of improvisation, which enabled her to reinforce her divine claim over the throne of England. Yet striking historical and literary references suggest that Queen Elizabeth and Marlowe’s Tamburlaine attempted to achieve improvisation through similar means but in the end encountered the transience and limits of their temporal powers, while facing the biological realities of barrenness and heredity – a fact that should serve as a warning to the current populist leaders across the world.
17. Renascence: Volume > 72 > Issue: 4
James Mayo The Knower, the Sayer, and the Doer in Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It
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This essay addresses the connections between Emersonian and Wordsworthian concepts and Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs through It, specifically those ideas of the Knower, the Sayer, and the Doer from Emerson’s “The Poet,” Emerson’s concept of what constitutes poetry and “The Poet,” as well as Wordsworth’s notions of poetic creativity. As discussed in the essay, Emerson’s concepts of the Knower, the Sayer, and the Doer line up with the three central characters of the novella—The Reverend Maclean, Norman Maclean (both the author and the narrator), and Paul Maclean respectively. It is the unique blending of Romantic poetic leanings and religion that make all three the characters they are, which the author represents through the use of fishing as metaphor. The difficulties faced by the Sayer, as he tries to relate the story of past events and “spots in time,” are central to my argument, as they present the central conflict of the novel and offer the readers a contradiction as well, as the character who’s known as the Sayer should have no trouble expressing himself. However, it is with Wordsworth’s notion of ideas reflected on in tranquility that allow the Sayer to tell the story of his brother, the great poet/artist in a Romantic sense.
18. Renascence: Volume > 72 > Issue: 4
William Tate “Stalled by Our Lassitude”: Time and Attunement in Wilbur’s “Lying”
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Richard Wilbur’s poem “Lying” considers two kinds of lying. He addresses the traditional accusation that poets tell lies, but he gradually exposes boredom as a subtler and more dangerous form of lying. The essay draws on insights from the philosophers Martin Heidegger and Jean-Luc Marion and considers analogues in Scripture and Hamlet and Paradise Lost in order to draw out the significance of Wilbur’s claim.
19. Renascence: Volume > 72 > Issue: 4
Notes on Contributors
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20. Renascence: Volume > 72 > Issue: 3
Christian R. Davis Protestant Missionaries in Literature: Hagiographic, Fanatical, and Carnivalesque Characters
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Protestant cross-cultural missionaries have appeared as characters in literary narratives for some two hundred years. These narratives use three patterns. The first, showing godly missionaries supported by divine interventions, includes nonfiction accounts of missionaries like Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, and Don Richardson. The second pattern, showing missionaries as orthodox fanatics, includes Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Maugham’s “Rain,” and Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. The third pattern, common in postcolonial novels, portrays missionaries with ambivalence and humor and includes elements of Bakhtin’s “carnivalesque”: comic-grotesque imagery, obscenities, and feasts. This postcolonial missionary character represents not oppression but freedom and appears in such novels as Anand’s Untouchable, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller.