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Essays on Values in Literature

Volume 67, Issue 4, Fall 2015

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Displaying: 1-4 of 4 documents

1. Renascence: Volume > 67 > Issue: 4
Christopher Crosbie, Publicizing the Science of God: Milton's Raphael and the Boundaries of Knowledge
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This essay reads Raphael, the principal expositor of scientific knowledge in Milton’s Paradise Lost, as embodying divergent, virtually antithetical, dispositions towards the prospect of free engagement with natural philosophy within the public sphere. At once stimulating Adam’s curiosity about the natural world while also overzealously curtailing the range of human inquiry, Raphael inadvertently primes Adam and Eve to fall for Satan’s sophistry by advancing undue restrictions in excess of his divine mandate. In doing so, Raphael’s pedagogy conveys the uncertainty experienced by Milton and many of his more anxious contemporaries regarding the precise manner by which one should best navigate scientific discussion within a burgeoning public sphere. Raphael’s dual functions create a dialectic of restrained scientific inquiry that, in the absence of a definitive model for a religiously-informed science predicated on free inquiry, thus constitutes that most Miltonic of paradoxes: the advocacy of investigative liberty superintended by an elite few.
2. Renascence: Volume > 67 > Issue: 4
Adrienne Akins Warfield, Sunday School Books and Twain’s Joan of Arc
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This article considers Mark Twain’s 1896 novel Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc in the context of his earlier satirical treatment of nineteenth-century Sunday school books. Though often classified as an anomaly among Twain’s works, Joan of Arc in fact proves perfectly consistent with the author’s most pointed critiques of the moral and religious training of children. Close analysis of Twain’s earlier works on children illuminates his presentation of his ideal child and ideal human Joan. Twain’s novel makes clear that Joan’s virtue is not the result of the type of behavioral training operant in nineteenth-century Sunday school books. By highlighting Joan’s selflessness and emphasizing that she is not motivated by rewards or punishments, Twain distinguishes her from self-seeking Sunday school book heroes and heroines. And by telling the true story of her persecutions, sufferings, and martyrdom, his narrative completely inverts the pattern of the Sunday school books in which “good” children are always abundantly rewarded and “bad” children are always dreadfully punished. Joan remains untouched by the corrupt values of her society because of her moral conviction, courage, and immunity to both threatened punishments and promised rewards. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc is not, as some have argued, a sentimental departure from Twain’s lifelong pattern of criticizing the social and religious training of children. In Joan, Twain finds a heroine who subverts Sunday school book standards of “goodness” and in the process achieves true virtue.
3. Renascence: Volume > 67 > Issue: 4
Kirsten Hall, "It is all one": Hetty Sorel and the Myth of Cupid and Psyche
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Although George Eliot only once explicitly references the myth of Cupid and Psyche in Adam Bede, the rest of the novel frequently alludes to the myth, specifically with reference to Hetty Sorrel and her relationship with Arthur Donnithorne. In fact, this myth provides an instructional framework for reading and interpreting Hetty Sorrel’s moral development. The parallel between Hetty and the myth of Psyche, which can be read as an allegory for the moral transformation of the human soul, is noteworthy: what is Eliot trying to accomplish when she compares the grand, mythological development of the human Psyche to Hetty Sorrel’s “little trivial soul?” I will argue that the mythologizing of Hetty’s story serves two purposes. First, it reveals a discrepancy between Hetty’s idealized dream world and the reality of her life. Second, it is when her mythologized dream world is shattered that her life paradoxically begins to mirror the Psyche myth: just as in the Psyche myth, Hetty’s soul grows through trial and suffering. The transformation of the soul, says Eliot, takes many forms and happens in unexpected places and ways. In fact, the sufferings of trivial souls are worthy of recognition even if they achieve only the smallest growth.
4. Renascence: Volume > 67 > Issue: 4
Stephen J. Schuler, The Pagan Sacrament: Venus and Eros in C.S.Lewis's Till We Have Faces
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The gods in C. S. Lewis’s novel Till We Have Faces are often supposed to represent the God of Christianity, yet Lewis’s nonfiction suggests that the gods, Ungit and her son the Shadowbrute, should be understood as Venus and Eros, who represent the sex act and romantic attraction, respectively. Throughout the novel, the narrator, Orual, struggles against both sexuality and romantic attraction, and therefore against both deities. By the end of the novel, Orual has reconciled with her sister Psyche as well as with the god Eros. Although there are parallels between Orual’s final visions of Eros and Christian visions of God, the details of the novel tend to undercut the Christian typology that readers have come to expect from Lewis’s fiction.