Bible and Novel: Narrative Authority and the Death of God

Paperback | July 25, 2015

byNorman Vance

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The Victorian novel acquired greater cultural centrality just as the authority of the scriptures and of traditional religious teaching seemed to be declining. Did the novel supplant the Bible? The novelists often adopted or participated in a broadly progressive narrative of social change whichcan be seen as a secular replacement for the theological narrative of "salvation history" and the waning authority of biblical narrative. Victorian fiction seems in some ways to enact the process of secularization. But contemporary religious resurgence in various parts of the world and postmodernscepticism about grand narratives have challenged and complicated the conventional view of secularization as an irreversible process, an inevitable "disenchantment of the world" which is an aspect and function of the grand narrative of modernization. Such developments raise new questions aboutapparently post-Christian Victorian fiction. In our increasingly secular society novel-reading is now more popular than Bible-reading. Serious novels are often taken more seriously than scripture. Norman Vance looks at how this may have come about as an introduction to four best-selling late-Victorian novelists: George Eliot, Thomas Hardy,Mary Ward and Rider Haggard. Does the novel in their hands take the place of the Bible? Can apparently secular novels still have religious significance? Can they make new imaginative sense of some of the religious and moral themes and experiences to be found in the Bible? Do Eliot and her successorsanticipate some of the insights of modern theology and contemporary investigations of religious experience? Do they call in question long-standing rumours of the death of God and the triumph of the secular? Bible and Novel develops a new context for reading later Victorian fiction, using it to illuminate the increasingly perplexed and confusing issue of "secularization" and recent negotiations of the 'post-secular'.

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The Victorian novel acquired greater cultural centrality just as the authority of the scriptures and of traditional religious teaching seemed to be declining. Did the novel supplant the Bible? The novelists often adopted or participated in a broadly progressive narrative of social change whichcan be seen as a secular replacement for th...

Norman Vance is Professor of English Literature and Intellectual History at University of Sussex.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.54 inPublished:July 25, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198744994

ISBN - 13:9780198744993

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Table of Contents

1. God and the Bible, Secularisms and Novels2. The Authority of the Bible3. The Crisis of Biblical Authority4. George Eliot's Secular Scriptures5. Thomas Hardy: the Church and the Negation of Christianity6. Mary Ward and the Problems of History7. Rider Haggard: Adventures with the Numinous8. Conclusion: Authority, the Novel and God

Editorial Reviews

"this book is engaging, informed and ambitious yet controlled ... effectively raise[s] the question of whether secularization is an accurate or useful way to understand either literature or history." --Courtney Salvey, Review of English Studies