Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeffrey N. Cox

Second Advisor

Jillian Heyday-Stevenson

Third Advisor

Paul Youngquist

Fourth Advisor

Christopher Braider

Abstract

This dissertation examines the way the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection surfaces in the literature of the British Romantic Movement, and investigates the ways literature recovers the politically subversive potential in theology. In the long eighteenth century, the orthodox Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection (historically, a doctrine that grounded believers’ resistance to state oppression) disappears from the Church of England’s theological and religious dialogues, replaced by a docile vision of disembodied life in heaven—an afterlife far more amenable to political power. However, the resurrection of the physical body resurfaces in literary works, where it can again carry a powerful resistance to the state. This resistance arises in a variety of forms: Evangelical liturgical revisions like William Cowper’s Olney Hymns, the unseemly Gothic characters like Byron’s Manfred, and Shelley’s syncretic mythology in Prometheus Unbound all use raised physical bodies to undermine state authority while echoing key aspects of the Christian doctrine. The dissertation contributes to the fields of literary criticism, political theology, and history. While recent works in British Romanticism rediscover the period’s rich religious context, the dissertation analyzes the interplay between Christian theology and literary production through the state-authorized Church of England, a site that scholars have yet to substantially engage. Furthermore, the project accounts for a blind spot in the field of political theology, where the ramifications of the doctrine of the resurrection could shed new light on the friction between Christian orthodoxy and state power. Likewise, the dissertation fills a gap in the history of theology, highlighting the impact of literature on doctrinal development in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. While Anglican theological writings of the period fail to engage the doctrine, Romantic literature subverts the Anglican establishment by drawing from the resurrection of the dead a radical right beyond state power. As a whole, “Raising the Last Hope” spans mystical revelation, gothic horror, and even expressly anti-Christian revolution, showing how resurrection could again become the body through which resistance might rise.

Share

COinS