Volume 73, Issue 1, Winter 2021

Modernism and the Turn Toward Religion

Craig Woelfel, Jayme Stayer
Pages 3-11

Introduction: Modernism and the Turn to Religion

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.