Love and Idolatry in the Victorian Novel
Timothy L. Carens
Despite frequent declarations of the sanctity of love and marriage, British Protestant culture nurtured the fear that human affection might easily slip into idolatry. Throughout the nineteenth-century, theological essays, sermons, hymns, and didactic fiction and poetry urged the faithful to maintain a constant watch over their hearts, lest they become engrossed by human love, guilty of worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. Strange Gods: Love and Idolatry in the Victorian Novel traces the concerns produced in Protestant culture by this broad interpretation of idolatry. In chapters focusing on Charles Kingsley and Charlotte Brontë, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, and Thomas Hardy, this volume shows that even supposedly secular novels obsessively reenact an ideological clash between Protestant faith and human love. Anxiety about adoring humans more than God frequently overshadows and sometimes derails the progress of romance in Victorian novels. By probing this anxiety and its narrative effects, Strange Gods uncovers how a central Protestant belief exerts its influence over stories about love and marriage.
Timothy L. Carens is Professor of English at the College of Charleston where he teaches classes on nineteenth-century literature and culture. He is author of Outlandish English Subjects in the Victorian Domestic Novel and his essays have appeared in Dickens Studies Annual, Studies in English Literature, College English, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Nineteenth-Century Literature.
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