Thornton Wilder, the only author to have won the Pulitzer Prize for both drama and fiction, frequently portrays characters struggling with religious and theological issues. His work has been examined by critics in connection with American Puritanism, existentialism, and Vedantic literature, but little attention has been paid to the works of Thornton’s brother Amos, an ordained minister, poet, biblical scholar, literary critic, and professor at Harvard. Thornton Wilder and Amos Wilder: Writing Religion in Twentieth-Century America is the first book to explore the relationship between Thornton’s work and his brother Amos’s scholarship.
Previous critics of Thornton’s works have claimed that they describe timeless human values. Christopher Wheatley, on the contrary, argues that Wilder is primarily interested in the historical context of ideas, the ways in which they are a product of their time. He demonstrates how this parallels elements in Amos’s biblical scholarship. For the most part scholars have also treated Wilder’s works as if his ideas were static throughout his career. Wheatley contends that Wilder's early works of fiction and drama examine religion in times of historical crisis, whereas his later works demonstrate a deep concern about the intellectual, social, economic, and spiritual currents of contemporary America, as well as the influences of existentialism and postwar skepticism on his evolving religious ideas.
Drawing on extensive archival research in the papers of both brothers, Thornton Wilder and Amos Wilder: Writing Religion in Twentieth-Century America is essential reading for anyone interested in the Wilders, religion and literature, or American literature and drama.
“Christopher Wheatley offers a completely fresh way of seeing Thornton Wilder’s novels and plays and lays a solid foundation for a reinterpretation of Wilder’s work that pays serious attention to history.” —Nancy Bunge, Michigan State University
"Thornton Wilder and Amos Wilder is a thought-provoking study of Wilder's fiction and drama in relation to one of the great universal themes of human culture—religious belief. The unique thing about this study is that Christopher J. Wheatley reads Thornton Niven Wilder's literary works in relation to Amos Niven Wilder's both scholarly and poetic. The book is impressive for its reading both Wilders in the context of both pre-modern and modern literature that treats the religious theme, either skeptically or affirmatively." —Lincoln Konkle, The College of New Jersey