The modernist period witnessed attempts to explain religious experience in non-religious terms. Such novelists as Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Franz Kafka found methods to describe through fiction the sorts of experiences that had traditionally been the domain of religious mystics and believers. In Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel, Pericles Lewis considers the development of modernism in the novel in relation to changing attitudes to religion. Through comparisons of major novelists with sociologists and psychologists from the same period, Lewis identifies the unique ways that literature addressed the changing spiritual situation of the early twentieth century. He challenges accounts that assume secularisation as the main narrative for understanding twentieth-century literature. Lewis explores the experiments that modernists undertook in order to invoke the sacred without directly naming it, resulting in a compelling study for readers of twentieth-century modernist literature.
Pericles Lewis is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Yale University. His past publications explore the development of modern literary forms in a period of political and social instability and include Modernism, Nationalism and the Novel (Cambridge, 2000) and The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (Cambridge, 2007).
Acknowledgements; 1. Churchgoing; 2. God's afterlife; 3. Henry James and the varieties of religious experience; 4. Marcel Proust and the elementary forms of religious life; 5. Franz Kafka and the hermeneutics of suspicion; 6. Virginia Woolf and the disenchantment of the world; 7. The burial of the dead; Select bibliography; Index; Notes.