Secularization and British Literature, 1600-1800
This project uses and expands upon recent models of European secularization to develop a new account of British literary history in the 17th and 18th centuries. By focusing on writing that emerged from three particular movements—neostoicism, sentimentalism and evangelicalism—it shows that literature in the period did not conform to a narrative of triumphant secularization. Rather, literary writing knew no secular/religious divide at all. From this perspective, key literary genres—the essay, novel and meditative poetry—acquire new contexts, purposes and meanings. This innovative account of literary history will also contribute to a more nuanced understanding of secularization itself.