Although religion has never been in danger of disappearing, much of the best modern literature imagines otherwise. Poets and novelists of the Romantic and Victorian periods critiqued institutional religion; modernists championed artistic creativity in lieu of God’s; post-modernists confronted evil and meaninglessness in the wake of World War II. We will explore these different imaginings of Western culture without God by studying poetry, fiction, drama, and essays from the last two centuries. We will consider this literature in its cultural and historical contexts as a vehicle for feelings about particular forms of religion and their potential alternatives. Authors will include Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Wallace Stevens, Samuel Beckett, Flannery O’Connor, Philip Larkin, James Baldwin, and Jeanette Winterson. Assignments will include weekly blog posts, three quizzes, one short paper (3-4 pages) on a course text, and one longer final paper (7-9) that brings one of the works from the course into conversation with an approved literary text of your choosing.
This course count as an Arts and Letters course in the College's General Education requirement.