Fiction: The Western Novel and Religion

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While a foremost contemporary American writer of fiction asserts that "the literary artist, to achieve full effectiveness, must assume a religious state of mind" (Updike, p. 239), there is no denying that the novel is a genre of literary art that rarely takes religion as its obvious and principal theme. Among the more prominent twentieth-century theorists of the novel, one viewed it as "the epic of a world that has been abandoned by God" (Lukács, p. 88), and another considered it the genre in which "the absolute past" of the gods, demigods, and heroes is "contemporized" and "brought low, represented on a plane equal with contemporary life, in an everyday environment, in the low language of contemporaneity" (Bakhtin, p. 21).

Some books that read like novels do overtly take religion as their theme, but they are better described as works of edificationalthough they may possess grace of style or persuasive power, their inspiration is not artistic but propagandist. A true novel, even in modest categories of this genre, seeks to show the human being in society; any teaching that may be inherent in it, or any moral conclusion it may point to, is secondary to this artistic impulse. The great novelists frequently write on themes that have religious implications, but these are approached indirectly and shown in action or reflection rather than direct admonition. To form any notion of the connection between the novel and religion, we must look below the surface of the work of art, and we must not expect wholehearted assent to any version of orthodoxy.

This is not to set the novel at odds with religion, if we accept the latter word in terms of its derivation as implying the careful consideration of forces, laws, ideas, or ideals that are sufficiently powerful to inspire awe or devotion. The novel seeks to show the human being, confused and fallible, meeting the complexities of life, among which are likely to be those elements describable as numinous. If, indeed, humans are naturally religious, the novel cannot avoid religion, though its principal theme will continue to be the human being.

Although it is actually an ancient genre (Doody, 1996), the novel in its most recognizable current form developed in the seventeenth century as a successor to the epic, which dealt with humans as heroic beings, and the romance, which was free of any necessity for its characters to obey the broad laws of probability, or for stated causes to bring their usual consequences. Conditioned by the Renaissance and strongly influenced by the Reformation, the modern novel required that a story should be, in broad terms, probable, and its characters believable in terms of common experience. The novel was expected to be a story about what most readers would accept as real life, and as ideas of real life are inseparably associated with what human beings, at any period of history, are inclined to take for granted without much reflection, the novel became a mirror of society, and thus a mirror of the nature of the era for which it was written. Although the novel does not seek to avoid issues that are properly religious, its principal energy in this area is better described as moral.

The morality put forward by Western novelists may be reduced to a number of broad precepts. "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7); "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19); "The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Pet. 2:22); "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself" (Gal. 6:3). These are but a few of the more minatory precepts found in the Bible that underlie scores of novels. That these general laws may be seen at work in daily life, in the uttermost variety of circumstances, and that they are psychological truths, makes them natural guides of the novelist, who must be, like any artist, an undeluded observer. The novelist may deal with these grim truths humorously, and some of the most truly religious novels are seen by the world as funny books, but their underlying morality is far from funny.

This encyclopedia treats the history of the novel in a separate entry, but it is useful here to begin with Don Quixote (pt. 1, 1605; pt. 2, 1615), by Miguel de Cervantes, often spoken of as the first truly modern novel. Its story is of the fortunes of a Spanish gentleman whose wits have been turned by reading old books of romance and chivalry. He equips himself absurdly as a knight and rides forth in search of adventures, and in a rambling and sometimes coarse and perfunctory tale he is mocked, beaten, and humiliated until, on his deathbed, he understands the folly of his delusion.

The book is often read superficially, or not read at all, by many people who are nevertheless aware of it, as the story is familiar from stage, film, and operatic adaptations, and as the word quixotic, meaning "actuated by impracticable ideals of honor," is in common use. A careful reading of the novel reveals the mainspring of the book's extraordinary power. It is the first instance in popular literature of the profoundly religious theme of victory plucked from defeat, which has strong Christian implications. The Don, who is courteous and chivalrous toward those who abuse or mock him, and who is ready to help the distressed and attack tyranny or cruelty at whatever cost to himself, is manifestly a greater person than the dull-witted peasants and cruel nobles who torment and despise him. Many readers love him because his folly is Christlikehis victory is not of this world.

The theme is repeated in countless novels, including a lineage of works in which the quixotic protagonist undergoes a discernible process of "sanctification" that runs counter to the more oft-discussed secularizing tendency of modern literature. Three of the most notable examples are Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews (1742), Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot (1869), and Graham Greene's Monsignor Quixote (1982), with their respective depictions of Parson Adams, Prince Myshkin, and Father Quixote. In these novels, the modes of living, acting, and speaking as a good-natured man (Adams), a holy fool (Myshkin), or a Roman Catholic priest struggling with faith and doubt (Father Quixote) reflect different aspects of the Christian ideal, though they also call to mind the mad delusion of Cervantes's hero by virtue of their discrepancy with the predominantly profane or secular currents of the modern West (Ziolkowski, 1991).

Among the greatest literary adaptations of the Quixote theme is Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers. The titular hero, whom we first meet as a foolish and almost buffoonlike character, is deepened by an unjust imprisonment to a point where he is truly aware of the misery that is part of the society in which he lives. It is of importance to our theme that Mr. Pickwick is dependent on his valet, Sam Weller, as Don Quixote is dependent on his peasant squire, Sancho Panza, for a measure of common sense and practical wisdom that saves him from disaster. Faith, hope, charity, justice, and fortitude are exemplified in the masters, but without the prudence and temperance of the servants they would be lost. A character who possessed all the seven great virtues would never do as the hero of a novel, but when a hero who has most of them is complemented by a helper and server who has what he or she lacks, great and magical fiction may result.

As the mighty virtues appear in numerous, though often disguised, forms in great novels, so also do the capital sins. To provide an equivalent for each suggests a list that inevitably means the exclusion of many others equally cogent. When we think of pride, however, we remember how brilliantly it is deployed in Dickens's Domby and Son (1846); wrath recalls Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (1880) and Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851); envy is the mainspring of Honoré de Balzac's La cousine Bette (1846); lust has many exemplars, some of them presenting the vice in a refined form, as in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa Harlowe (1747), and others explicit, as in John Cleland's Fanny Hill (17481749); gluttony is a less popular theme, though drunkenness, which might be regarded as one of its forms, is very common and is explored in Émile Zola's L'Assommoir (1877); avarice is popular, and Balzac's Le cousin Pons (1847) shows it in the guise of the collector's mania, linked in Sylvain Pons with a greed that exemplifies gluttony in the guise of gourmandise (the gourmet's refinement of the uglier word); sloth recalls Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov (1857), in which that sin is explored to its depth. This list is certainly not meant to be definitive, and the Seven Deadly Sins do not include cruelty, of which Dickens affords many examples, nor stupidity, which Gustave Flaubert displays subtly in Madame Bovary (1857), nor snobbery, which, though hardly a sin, is a deep preoccupation of the bourgeois world and has never been more searchingly anatomized than in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (19131927). Virtually any attribute, when exaggerated, may become a vice, and in some circumstances vice may take on the color of virtue. This makes heavy work for the moralist but is the delight of the novelist, who thrives on delicate distinctions and on that enantiodromia, or tendency of attributes and emotions to run into their opposites, which is familiar in psychology.

The novel has proved effective in depicting what, from the traditional Jewish or Christian perspectives, would be ultimate acts of human evil: rebellion against God through an effort to be God's equal (cf. the biblical tale of Babel), and the human conversion of life in this world to a hell on earth. The preeminent example of the first theme is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), which represents the effort of a scientist to, in effect, usurp God's role as creator and conqueror of death. To affirm the jointly Hellenic and Hebrew roots of this theme, Shelley dubbed her titular protagonist "the Modern Prometheus" and included in her narrative explicit references to the rebellious Satan of John Milton's Paradise Lost. Frankenstein crystallized a distinctly Gothic dimension of early nineteenth-century Romanticism, some of whose exponents displayed an irrepressible fascination with medieval legends about the Devil (Mephistopheles) and lore of the demonic. In the twentieth century, in contrast, the theme that emerged of the human-made, terrestrial inferno, where countless innocents suffer and perish, was an immediate outgrowth of historical reality. The theme is thus chiefly exemplified in novels by actual survivors of the pogroms, the "concentration-camp universe," the gulag, and other forms of genocide that marked the century. Elie Wiesel's La Nuit (1958) and Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird (1965) are among the most haunting novelistic testimonies to the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, while Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle (1968) and his multivolume The Gulag Archipelago, 19181956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (19731978) expose unforgettably the infernal dimensions of the Soviet slave-labor camps. As memory is the capacity that is sine qua non for any novelist, and perhaps especially for those who record atrocities, the novels of Toni Morrison have represented most poignantly the abomination of human slavery and its psychological and spiritual legacies in America.

When novelists choose churches and churchmen as their theme, they frequently dwell on faults that are undeniable, but paint an ungenerous picture of the whole. This is particularly the case when the sort of religion portrayed is of the evangelistic, nonsacramental kind. In such religion, popular opinion expects that the evangelist or the parson will exemplify in himself the virtues he urges on others; in Sinclair Lewis's term, he is a Professional Good Man. His failure to be wholly good makes diverting reading, for hypocrisy provides livelier fiction than virtue. In Lewis's Elmer Gantry (1927), all the shams of vulgar religiosity are exposed, and its appeal to naive and unreflective people held up to ridicule. Set likewise during the first half of the twentieth century, but focusing upon a particular African American family against the bleak backdrop of a racist, segregated America, James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) presents the deacon Gabriel Grimes as the quintessential religious hypocrite. Having once thought himself divinely promised to father a saintly lineage, Gabriel espouses a harshly moralistic brand of Pentecostalism while mistreating his own family (especially his good stepson John, the novel's central protagonist) and concealing his own past moral lapses, most notably his having fathered another son out of wedlock and then abandoned him and the mother.

A variant depiction of the religious life as it is lived by well-intentioned but not spiritually gifted priests is to be found in the novels of Anthony Trollope. In The Warden (1855), the principal character, the Reverend Septimus Harding, is a good man, but timid and weak, and his dilemma when he is accused of holding a sinecure is a choice between Christian precept and the way of the world; obedient to public opinion, he resigns his wardenship. In its sequel, Barchester Towers (1857), we meet the warden's son-in-law, Archdeacon Grantly, who dearly longs to succeed his father as bishop, for he is a man of strong worldly ambition; but in the first chapter of the book Grantly must decide whether he desires the bishopric at the cost of his father's life. His decision is made in terms of his faith rather than his ambition. The scene in which he prays for forgiveness at his father's bedside is moving and finely realized. Not a crumb of religiosity or false sentiment is to be found in it. Grantly is no saint, but he is a man of principle.

In the same fine novel we meet the bishop's chaplain, Mr. Slope, who cloaks inordinate ambition under evangelistic piety, and the Reverend Dr. Vesey Stanhope, who draws his salary as a clergyman but lives a fashionable life in Italy, leaving his work to curates. Trollope parades before us a wide variety of clergy, some of whom are saved from moral ignominy by the fact that the Church of England, through its catholicism, separates the priestly function from the man who discharges it (though abuse of this distinction is frowned upon). But such characters as Mr. Harding, the warden; the Reverend Francis Arabin, an exemplar of the scholar-priest and intellectual; and the Reverend Josiah Crawley, in whom his creator combines pride with humility, manliness with weakness, and acute conscience with bitter prejudice, redeem Trollope's clergy and emphasize his very English, very Victorian conviction that a clergyman is not required to be a saint but should unquestionably be a man of principle and a gentleman. This is a long way from Elmer Gantry, who was neither.

No discussion of this subject can escape some consideration of the part the intellectual and artistic character of the novelist plays in his depiction of religion, and its influence on his characters. All generalizations are suspect, but it may be stated broadly that the temperament that makes a writer a novelist is unlikely to be friendly to orthodoxy, and that the Manichaean struggle between darkness and light is more friendly to the novelist's purpose (the depiction of the human being in society) than is an unwavering adherence to a creed. Inevitably, there are important exceptions. Calvinist predestination is the mainspring of James Hogg's fine The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824). There is no mistaking the Roman Catholic thought behind all the work of James Joyce, Graham Greene, and Anthony Burgess, or the monolithic Russian Orthodoxy that informs the novels of Solzhenitsyn. Likewise the novels of Chaim Potok are thoroughly saturated by the world of Orthodox Judaism in modern urban America, highlighting the tensions between the everyday, worldly Orthodoxy and a more stringent form of Hasidism.

More often, however, the theme of Don Quixote is repeated: the good man or woman exhibits, and is betrayed by, weaknesses, but the forces that oppose him or herwhich are more likely to be stupidity, conventionality, and self-seeking than determined evilsucceed in the short view. It is the reader who understands and appreciates the goodness of the hero, and whereas in a work of inferior artistic merit this may simply flatter the reader's ego, in a great novel it may leave readers with a larger vision of life and an appreciation of the weight of religious feeling that they did not have before.

Good novelists manage this by indirect means; the aim of such novelists is not to teach but to entertain, and thus to persuade. Their chief purpose, from which they stray at their peril as artists, is to depict life as they see it, and whatever they touch will be colored by their own temperament. The temperament of the artist is not unwaveringly noblewholeness of spirit, not perfection, is the artist's aim. Many novelists, of whom Sinclair Lewis may serve as an example, are disappointed idealists, angry with life because it does not conform to the best they can conceive, and their strictures on religion, as on other great themes, are apt to be bitter. The calm observation of Trollope is a rarer gift.

Examples could be cited to the point of weariness, without achieving very much. Let it suffice to say that a turbulent and tormented spirit such as Dostoevsky will not see religion as it is seen by a stronger, more deeply and often more narrowly moral writer such as Tolstoy. Neither exhibits the philosophical, ironic, but finally positive spirit of Thomas Mann. To look for what is called "real life" in the novels of these and countless others is to search for something definable only in vague terms. Vladimir Nabokov once described a fictional masterpiece as an "original world" that is unlikely to fit the reader's own world. Serious readers enter such an original world as they encounter any work of artin search of enlargement and enlightenment. If the novel has this effect, the reader's concept of "real life" has been changed.

Serious readers, however, are not a majority, nor are serious writers. We must beware of the critical error that tries to define art solely in terms of the best. Below the level of greatness are innumerable novels that cannot be dismissed as having no merit; they may be lesser works of art, or on a level below that, or they may be widely popular and thus, in some measure, influential. The best-seller should not be brushed aside simply because many people like it; its very popularity is a strong clue to what a multitude of people will accept as a depiction of the human being in society, and therefore as an indication of what those people believe society to be. Even more than what these readers believe to be true, popular literature displays what they wish were true, about religion as well as many other things. Thus, having appeared at a time when idealistic discussions of social and economic "globalization" are persistently defied by the realities of international conflicts or tensions that are often rooted in religious differences, Catherine Clément's international best-seller Le Voyage de Théo (1997) tells of a boy taken on a tour of the world's religions, traveling literally from one continent to the next, and arriving finally at the simple morale that one should be at peace with God, whatever one conceives God to be. In one sense, Le Voyage de Théo seeks to exploit the same function that numerous profounder novels have fulfilled in illuminating forms of religious life largely unfamiliar to "mainstream" Western readers. The portrayals of Brahmanic and Buddhist asceticism in Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. Eine indische Dichtung (1922), and of Chippewa traditions in the novels of Louise Erdrich, are but two examples that come immediately to mind.

What many readers seem to wish is that religion should not obtrude into a novel, either directly or in some awareness of the numinous. Writers who ignore their wish feel the lash of their resentment. Aldous Huxley, who seemed to a large and eager group of readers to be the perfection of the cynicism of the period following World War I, astonished and displeased them when, in 1936, he published Eyeless in Gaza, in which the voice of the moralist and explorer of faith that had been earlier evident in Brave New World (1932) could no longer be ignored. A similar experience befell Evelyn Waugh, whose works, being both witty and funny (for the two are not interchangeable terms), had secured him a delighted following of readers who, although they knew him to be a Roman Catholic, did not appreciate how determinedly Catholic he was until 1945, when Brideshead Revisited demanded that Catholic orthodoxy be taken with the uttermost seriousness. The deathbed repentance of the earl of Marchmain was ridiculed by those critics who could not bring themselves to believe that it might be true. That the wit, the funnyman, should also be religious was unbearable to multitudes of religious illiterates, many of them critics.

It is significant that when Huxley revealed the quester beneath the cynic he was forty, and that when Waugh forced his readers to face an embarrassing fact he was forty-two. Both men had reached the midpoint in life, when radical psychological change presents problems that can no longer be dismissed or dissembled before the artist's audience. The lives of virtually all novelists of the serious sort reveal some such alteration in the thrust of their work. If not religion in some readily identifiable form, the religious spirit of awe and a moral conviction asserts itself and shows in the work that is most characteristic.

In fiction on the most popular level, that of the best-seller, religion or the trappings of religion may be used (not necessarily cynically) by an author to induce in readers an impression that they are thinking about and weighing serious problems. The familiar tale of the priest who falls in love lies beneath many plots, an example of which is The Thorn Birds (1977), by Colleen McCullough, hailed as admirable and even profound by innumerable readers. The priest cannot deny his love, for to do so would be to reject something necessary to his wholeness. In time, as a cardinal, he receives his unacknowledged son into the priesthood.

There may lie beneath McCullough's book, and others like it, something that should not be ignored: Christianity has never wholly accepted human sexuality as a potentially noble part of the human makeup. Such books are a protest against that attitude, a demand that religion include sexuality and the distinctively feminine element in the human spirit as it shows itself in both sexes. The conflict between a high feminine spirit and a torturing, wholly masculine morality is finely explored in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850); Hester Prynne's greatness is opposed to the orthodoxy of her secret lover, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and there can be no doubt which spirit is the more truly religious.

Innumerable books have dealt with this question in a manner that may have been the best possible to their authors but that can only be called slight and, in some cases, cynically frivolous. An early example is The Monk (1796), the immensely popular novel by Matthew Gregory Lewis, in which the externals of Catholicism are exploited in a tale of nymphomania, murder, magic, and unappeasable lust. Unquestionably it is lively reading, but its notions of numinosity reach no higher than scenes of the Inquisition and a trumpery pact with the Devil. (For a fine example of the theme of the pact with the Devil, one may turn to Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus, 1947.) Lewis's Gothic shocker is mentioned here because it is the forerunner of many such tales in which religion serves indecency in the manner Shakespeare describes as "to have honey a sauce to sugar" (As You Like It, 3.3.2627). But they are popular, and it cannot be denied that they represent what religion means to many people. Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) offers an artistically superior example. Eugène Marie-Joseph Sue's Le Juif errant (18441845) is a lesser work in which the supposed unscrupulous intellectualism of the Jesuits is exploited.

Some reference must be made to the large category of books that make use of the occult as part of the paraphernalia of their stories, employing a romantic Satanism to produce an atmosphere of evil and decadence. Two works of Joris-Karl Huysmans have been admired: À rebours (1884), in which Catholicism is embraced as a remedy against a blighting pessimism, and Là-bas (1891), in which the hero searches for a consoling faith through the path of black magic. On a lower level of artistic achievement is the long-lived romance by Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897), in which the popular theme of vampirism is the mainspring of the action (among today's popularizers of this theme, the foremost is undoubtedly Anne Rice). These books are relevant to any discussion of religion and the novel inasmuch as they are evidence of a yearning in a large reading public for something to balance the apparent spiritual barrenness of the world that has emerged from the industrial, scientific, and technological revolution. That the public responds to the negative spirit of black magic rather than to something more hopeful is not surprising. Where religion loses its force, superstition is quick to supplant it, and it would need a strong new religious impulse or revelation to reverse that movement.

It is not surprising that when religion appears in this class of literature it is usually Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or Jewish mysticism (Qabbalah) that accommodate naive or unevolved religious feeling more sympathetically than Protestantism. The reformed versions of Christianity in their eagerness to banish superstition appear sometimes to have banished any sense of the numinous along with it, and it may be argued that the human being cannot live comfortably without some elements of belief that a stern moralist would class as superstitious. The human psyche cannot relate wholly toward the positive and the light side of life; it must have some balancing element of the dark, the unknown, and the fearful.

It is because of this unrecognized pull toward the numinous in its dark side that it is so difficult, even for a great literary artist, to portray a wholly good and admirable character. Dickens's villains have a power not found in his good men and women, and the great artist usually provides a balance, as he does in The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), where the innocent and saintly Little Nell is opposed to the grotesque villainy of the dwarf Quilp. This opposition provides the tension that gives the novel life and would slacken if Nell had things too much her own way. In The Brothers Karamazov (1880), Dostoevsky cannot, by his finest art, make the saintly Alyosha as real to us as the man divided between his good and evil, his brother Ivan. Modern human beings are aware of this tension as a demanding element in their own lives and respond to it in fiction.

When Tolstoy wrote War and Peace (1868) and Anna Karenina (1878), his powerful depiction of this tension made him a literary artist of the highest achievement, yet when he was impelled later to write works determinedly improving in tone, that splendor did not survive. But we must sympathize with Tolstoy's deep conviction that art should be religious in its impulse and make religious feeling at its highest available to a public neither devout nor philosophical. This is a conviction recognizable in many novels of the first rank.

In vast areas of popular literature a defensible, if sometimes crude, morality asserts itself, greatly to the satisfaction of its readers. In Westerns, the Good Guyand the values he stands fortriumphs over the Bad Guy, who is corrupt, cruel, and frequently cynical in his attitude toward women. For the Bad Guy to win in the struggle would topple the myth of worthiness and decency that readers of Westerns value. The same simple morality informs much science fiction and fantasy literature (e.g., C. S. Lewis's "Space Trilogy" [19381945] and his "Chronicles of Narnia" [19501956], with their overarching Christian cosmology), and even J. K. Rowling's wildly popular Harry Potter novels of alternate worlds and sorcery.

This is significant. In the words of G. K. Chesterton, "men's basic assumptions and everlasting energies are to be found in penny dreadfuls and halfpenny novelettes" (Heretics, 1905). Great numbers of readers of detective stories are, without ever defining their attitude, devoted to the morality of "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord," or the bleaker law of Exodus 21:2324: "If any mischief follow then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." Who is the instrument of the Lord's vengeance, who brings the murderer or the thief to his just reward? The Great Detective, of course. Be he the cold reasoning-machine Sherlock Holmes; the man of pity, Chesterton's own Father Brown; the high-born, donnish Peter Wimsey, or the immobile, intellectual Nero Wolfe; heor she, as in the cases, say, of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple or Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawskiis always the figure recognizable from medieval religious drama, sometimes called Divine Correction. He or she is the restorer of balance, the dispenser of justice, working on behalf of a higher authority.

The same pattern is observable in the spy story, which is the main rival of the detective novel. However attractive or extenuating may be the temptations that make the spy betray his country, and however plodding, weary, disillusioned, and dowdy the spy-catcher may be, in the end the betrayer of the highest values must be found and brought to some sort of justice. Often the tone is cynical; often the secret service is represented as no more than a game; but behind every game lies the desire to win, and thereby to establish or reaffirm some superiority. What superiority? That of an overriding morality.

How far is morality from religion? To the novelist it sometimes looks like the religion that people profess who wish to ignore Godor keep him behind a veil as being too grand for common concerns. It may be the religion of people who find an ever-present God embarrassing company, because they are aware that they cannot live always on the heights, and they do not believe that God understands their insufficiencies. But to support a system of morality without some reference to numinous values is uphill work for a philosopher, and beyond the scope of even a highly intelligent general reader.

The novel, at its best, is a work of literary art and a form of entertainment at all levels, concerned with human beings in every aspect of their lives, including, but not necessarily approving, their religious life. That its connection with religion should be, in the main, through morality rather than through faith or revelation should therefore surprise no one. Whatever pinnacles it may achieve in morality or philosophy, its character remains secular.


Many books of criticism that deal with the novel make passing reference to religious concerns when these are relevant, but not all critics are even-handed in their treatment of religion, and some of them seem almost to be religious illiterates, who either stand in foolish awe of what they have not examined or ignorantly decry it. The reader who wishes to pursue the train of thought suggested in the preceding entry might well reread the novels mentioned, with special attention to their religious implication. The following list confines itself to those critical works cited in the article:

Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Edited by Michael Holquist. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin, Tex., 1981.

Doody, Margaret Anne. The True Story of the Novel. New Brunswick, N.J., 1996.

Lukács, Georg. The Theory of the Novel: A Historico-Philosophical Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature. Translated by Anna Bostock. Cambridge, Mass., 1971.

Updike, John. "Religion and Literature." In The Religion Factor: An Introduction to How Religion Matters, edited by William Scott Green and Jacob Neusner. Louisville, Ky., 1996.

Ziolkowski, Eric. The Sanctification of Don Quixote: From Hidalgo to Priest. University Park, Pa., 1991.

Robertson Davies (1987)

Eric Ziolkowski (2005)