"Sorrow Brought Forth Joy": Feelings of Faith in American Literature
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Feelings of Faith draws upon religious thought, specifically, Christian theological traditions, in a reconsideration of major debates in contemporary affect theory. The dissertation is a study of American literature across historical periods. Its nine short chapters discuss the captivity narrative of Puritan Mary Rowlandson; Flannery O’Connor’s devotional writing and fiction; the short fiction of Gloria Naylor; slave narratives by Solomon Northup and Harriet Jacobs; James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain; Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. The project claims that while much of contemporary affect theory takes the view that affect and cognition are separate systems, Christian traditions understand them to be deeply interconnected. Chapters on the sociality of the emotions, with a focus on the black church in the United States, suggest that specific emotions have different meanings in a secular framework than they do in a religious one. Finally, while recent work on affect in literary and cultural studies tends to be anticipatory in its as yet unfulfilled claims regarding the transformative potential of affect for ethics, the prescriptive nature of religious doctrine offers clarity in its willingness to regulate conduct. The dissertation as a whole is written in the context of the secularization debates, with reference to what many scholars call the postsecular.
- English