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"I put childish things behind me"? Outgrowing Orthodox Christianity in three Victorian novels

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Description: This thesis examines Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, George Eliot's Middlemarch, and Mary Ward's Robert Elsmere, to show that each proposes an unorthodox definition of "the essence of Christianity" through the "moral growth" of its heroine. These novels appeared at a time when the authority of Christian doctrine was being called into question by German higher criticism of the Bible and by evolutionary theory. Instead of a faith that relies on the external authority of supernatural revelation and historical testimony, the ecumenical and progressive spirit embraced in these novels depends on internal authorities: conscience, experience, and the attachment of the religious affections to abstract ideals of Goodness and Beauty. While Gaskell pushes gently for unorthodox Theism to be included in the definition of Christianity, and Eliot pushes further for a "Christianity" that would include the moral agnostic, Ward pushes hard for the replacement of Christianity with a new religion.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work