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Volume 73, Issue 1, Winter 2021
Modernism and the Turn Toward Religion

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Displaying: 1-6 of 6 documents

1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Notes on Contributors
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