Oxford handbook of English literature and theology
Edited by Andrew Hass, David Jasper and Elisabeth Jay
Oxford University Press, 2007, £85.00, Hardback, 889p., ISBN 978-0199271979
I cannot really offer a review of this book as I am neither a specialist literary scholar nor a theologian and, in any case, the publishers did not respond to my request for a review copy. However, I have examined the contents of a reference library copy, and I offer this brief notice for the information of visitors to the website.
The book is described as “a definitive survey of one of the most popular and productive interdisciplinary fields – that of theology and literature”. Contributors are drawn from both sides of the Atlantic and include specialists in both literature and theology.
Part One includes introductory essays on what it might mean to engage in the interdisciplinary study of English literature and theology with David Jasper, Professor of Literature and Theology at the University of Glasgow, pointing out the recent emphasis on “Story” in theological studies.
Part Two looks at the formation of the tradition and includes articles on Vernacular Bibles and Prayer Books, the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, German criticism, the Victorians, Modernism and Post-Modernism.
Part Three considers literary ways of reading the Bible with articles on various parts of the Bible – for example, the Pentateuch, Judges, Psalms, the Prophetic Literature, the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, and Apocalyptic Literature.
Part Four examines theological ways of reading literature, and offers essays on Langland and Chaucer, Shakespeare and Marlowe, Herbert and Donne, Milton, the 18th Century novel, Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge, T.S. Eliot, David Jones and W.H. Auden.
Part Five is concerned with Theology as Literature and considers Cranmer and the Collects, Bunyan, John Henry Newman, and C.S. Lewis.
Part Six looks at the “Great Themes” in literature – Evil and the God of Love, Death and the After-life, the Passion Story in literature, Visions of Heaven and Hell, Feminism and Patriarchy, and Salvation.
The book closes with Part Seven – an afterword on the future of English literature and theology.
If you would like to find this book in your Christmas stocking, you will probably have to persuade your friends and relatives to club together and buy it for you. However, I would certainly commend this publication to anyone interested in the links between religion and literature – and I would hope to find a copy in any large reference library.
Contributed by: Graham Hedges, Hon. FCLIP, MCLIP, CLIS Secretary who until retirement worked for the public library service in the London Borough of Wandsworth.