Varieties of Aesthetic Experience
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At the height of modernism in the 1920s, what did it mean to believe and how was it experienced? Craig Woelfel seeks to answer this pivotal question in Varieties of Aesthetic Experience: Literary Modernism and Dissociation of Belief, a groundbreaking exploration of the relationship between secular modernity and religious engagement.

Woelfel hinges his argument on the unlikely comparison of two revered modern writers: T. S. Eliot and E. M. Forster. They had vastly different experiences with religion, as Eliot converted to Christianity later in life and Forster became a steadfast nonbeliever over time, but Woelfel contends that their stories offer a compelling model for belief as broken and ambivalent rather than constant. Narratives of faith—its loss or gain—are no longer linear but instead are just as fractured and varied as the modernists themselves. Drawing from Eliot's and Forster's major and minor creative and critical works, Woelfel makes the case for a "dissociation of belief" during the modern era—a separation of emotional and spiritual religious experience from its reduction to forms. He contextualizes belief in the modern era alongside modernist religious studies scholarship and current secularization theory, with particular attention to Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, paving the way for a more nuanced understanding of religious engagement at the time.

In Varieties of Aesthetic Experience, Woelfel considers major literary works—including Eliot's The Waste Land and Forster's A Passage to India—as well as the Cambridge Clark Lectures and previously unstudied personal writings from both authors. The volume revolves around a line from Eliot himself, from a lecture in which he said that he wanted "to see art, and to see it whole." Rather than excluding belief from the conversation, Woelfel contends that modernist art can become a critical liminal space for exploring what it means to believe in a secular age.


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Date de parution 15 octobre 2018
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EAN13 9781611179064
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Varieties of Aesthetic Experience
Varieties of
Aesthetic Experience
Literary Modernism and the Dissociation of Belief
Craig Bradshaw Woelfel

The University of South Carolina Press
2018 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
www.sc.edu/uscpress
27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-61117-905-7 (hardback)
ISBN 978-1-61117-906-4 (ebook)
Front cover illustration: Free Curve to the Point-Accompanying Sound of Geometric Curves , 1925, by Vasily Kandinsky, courtesy of Open Access at The Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
To Lindsay amabat amat .
Contents
Acknowledgments
1 Modernist Literature and the Dissociation of Belief
2 The Modern Background of Belief and Religious Experience
3 Beliefs about Belief: Eliot, Dante, and Religious Experience in The Waste Land
4 Stopping at the Stone: A Passage to India and Dissociated Belief
5 Eliotic Varieties of Aesthetic Experience
6 Forsterian Varieties of Aesthetic Experience
Coda
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgments
Thanks first to those at UC San Diego who first helped get this book started-especially Richard Cohen, who showed me what real religious studies scholarship was; and Michael Davidson, who helped me in ways it has taken me over a decade to understand and appreciate. Thanks to everyone at Notre Dame who gave me guidance and support as the project took real shape-Romana Huk and Maud Ellmann, Christian Moevs, the Devers Program in Dante Studies, Religion and Literature , Susannah Monta; and Steve Fredman, who, like Statius, has that rarest of teacher s gifts: knowing how to lead from behind and carrying the light with him for when it is needed. Thanks to the T. S. Eliot Society, for cultivating a community where this project could grow through the best form of scholarly work: friendly conversation-to Dominic Manganiello, a model of intellectual generosity since the day I met him; John Morgenstern, who gave me invaluable advice along the way; and Tony Cuda, whose small encouragement almost ten years ago in Florence legitimized the project, and whose subsequent criticism and friendship have seen it through. Thank you to Doug McFarland, who righted my will and is this book s honorary coauthor. Thanks go to the manuscript s first reader, Jeff Johnson, il miglior amigo .
An earlier version of part of chapter 4 appeared as Stopping at the Stone: Rethinking Belief (and Non-Belief ) in Modernism via A Passage to India , originally published in Twentieth-Century Literature 58.1 (2012): 26-59. Copyright 2012, Hofstra University. All rights reserved. Republished by permission of the copyright holder, and the present publisher, Duke University Press, www.dukeupress.edu .
Reprint permission granted for material from chapter 1 by the University of Notre Dame, Religion Literature 44.1 (Spring 2012).
1
Modernist Literature and the Dissociation of Belief
A minor addition to the catalog of modernism s great annus mirabilis: E. M. Forster and T. S. Eliot almost spent a lovely weekend together in May 1922. Lady Ottoline Morrell had extended Forster an invitation to come to Garsington for a weekend. For Forster, it was a move out of his normal Bloomsbury circle into another realm, that of the London high modernist literary scene. He was given the choice by his hostess of a first meeting with either Eliot or Wyndham Lewis. He chose the latter. Forster s biographer has related that he and Lewis got on amicably-they escaped from a crowd of overzealous undergrads by means of a long walk, one of Forster s favorite activities. However, he found the weekend of high society rather intrusive, and resented in particular Lady Ottoline s fishing for confidences about his recently deceased lover, Mohammed el Adl. 1
Eliot s and Forster s careers nearly met once more five years later, though again their persons did not. 2 In winter 1926-27 Forster delivered the prestigious Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, three years after the publication of A Passage to India . Though his audience could not know it at the time, the writing of that novel had taken a toll; he would not publish another. Much in the lectures indicates that Forster knew this, as they have a strong sense of finality. 3 But as he stood to begin, he was thinking not of his future as a novelist but of the shadow his critic-predecessor cast over the occasion:
Let me quote here for our comfort from my immediate predecessor in this lectureship, Mr. T. S. Eliot. Mr. Eliot enumerates, in the introduction to The Sacred Wood , the duties of the critic. It is part of his business to preserve tradition-when a good tradition exists. It is part of his business to see literature steady and to see it whole; and this is eminently to see it not as consecrated by time, but to see it beyond time. The first duty we cannot perform, the second we must try to perform. We can neither examine nor preserve tradition. But we can visualize the novelists as sitting in one room, and force them, by our very ignorance, from the limitations of date and place. I think that this is worth doing, or I should not have ventured to undertake this course. 4
Eliot had given the lectures in 1925-26, an honor that would help establish him in the role of his generation s definitive critic. The conscious attempt by both to see literature steady and to see it whole produced from the back-to-back lectures two monumental summary works on aesthetics: Forster s Aspects of the Novel , published in 1927; and Eliot s The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry . Eliot had originally intended the lectures to net three books, but they would not in fact produce any until the lectures themselves were published in 1993, under the editorial guidance of Ronald Schuchard. Eliot s lectures are his most comprehensive historicization of literary and intellectual history, and they served to codify his influential theory of the dissociation of sensibility as well as his classicist position. Forster s criticism has sadly not been much remembered by critics. But Forster was not chosen by accident; the lectures are remarkable. They more than hold their own with Eliot s not only in scope and insight but also in their penetrating treatment of key modernist aesthetic themes. Where they differ most greatly is in tone: Forster s reference to Eliot for our comfort is emblematic of his accommodating humility and charm as a speaker, and a world apart from the pedantic esotericism that made Eliot seem so masterful. He would not mention Eliot again.
The year 1926 was when T. S. Eliot entered St. Peter s in Rome and, to the surprise of his brother and sister-in-law who were with him, fell to his knees in prayer before Michelangelo s Piet . 5 Eliot was mired in a period of mental and emotional breakdown-one of several he underwent over the first half of his life and to which his brother was often privy. His letters suggest that this breakdown can be traced back to around 1925-that is, when Eliot was writing his own Clark Lectures-and a series of compounding causes: the near-deadly illness of his first wife, Vivien, and the continuing deterioration of their marriage; personal and financial stress over his pending decision to leave Lloyd s Bank and to relaunch the Criterion; and, surely not least, simple overwork. He who desires to be a competent banker, a powerful literary magazine editor, and the most influential poet-critic in English letters burns the candle at both ends. So it was not the collapse itself but its spiritual nature that was cause for surprise. Less than one year later, on 29 June 1927, Eliot was baptized in the Church of England. In November he would take the oath of British citizenship, and a transformation of multiple sorts would seem to be complete.
If his family was surprised, his fellow modernists were shocked. 6 Again, this was not necessarily because such radical change was unexpected in Eliot s particular case-many foresaw that he was headed for another collapse or crisis of some sort-but because orthodox belief was seemingly unfathomable for a member of the avant-garde. It is easy to forget, in the rear view of the conservative icon he became, that Eliot was an iconoclast. Pound would later recall in The Cantos a walk with Eliot in the Dordogne region of France, nearly a decade before the St. Peter s incident, when Arnaut 7 turned there / saying / I am afraid of the life after death. / and after a pause: Now, at last, I have shocked him. Pound s reaction was incredulity; he could not even take Eliot s confession on its own terms. But this beats me, / Beats me, I mean I do not understand it he commented, able only to see Eliot s fear as this love of death that is in them. 8 Virginia Woolf s reaction was even more telling. In a letter dated 11 February 1928 she wrote that she had the most shameful and distressing interview with dear Tom Eliot, who may be called dead to us all from this day forward. He has become an Anglo-Catholic believer in God and immortality, and goes to Church. The shock was not personal; there was simply something obscene in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God. 9
After 1927 Eliot worked increasingly to incorporate his beliefs into his art and criticism, and he separated himself in matters of politics, art, and faith from the views of his former coterie. The radical modernist poet of The Waste Land turned conservative figurehead, or as he soon would (in)famously put it in the preface to For Lancelot Andrewes: Classicist, Royalist, and Anglo-Catholic. Forster, meanwhile, moved out along an opposite trajectory. After the publication of A Passage to India he became an active public supporter of the spread of liberal democratic politics, as well as a skeptical variety of humanism that included a consistent vocal rejection of various dimensions of organized religion. He had lost his faith as an undergrad at Cambridge; his famous 1938 essay What I Believe opens with his declaration that he did not believe in belief, and at age eighty he would tell his audience of the Cambridge Humanists that he feared only that a Humanism which [had] been gained so softly may not stand [him] in the hour of death, though he would be glad if it did. 10
Ships passing in the night: one toward religious belief and the other away; one away from modern secularity and the other toward. To borrow from Woolf, Eliot was born into Anglo-Catholicism and became dead to high modernism by virtue of that belief; Forster s loss of faith and the skeptical humanism it produced were the key signs of his movement from Georgian to (possible) modernist, and they marked him as a liberal-humanist secular spokesman of the age. Such teleological and linear narratives of belief or its loss in the modernist period-indeed, about the modernist period-are both common and comforting. They are fascinating: first, because their conceptions of subjects and narrative are grossly incommensurate with critical understandings about modernism as a whole, where the rules are fragmentation, multiplicity and multidirectionality, and complexity; and second, because they seem to square so poorly with actual engagements with religion in modernist art and aesthetics when we get to actual authors and texts. Our beliefs about belief and modernism need revision, and Eliot and Forster s crisscross is a fine place to start.
It is of course true that Forster and Eliot were very different-different public and critical personas of different social circles, different genres and aesthetic concerns, different sensibilities, different sexualities, 11 different reputations, radically different politics, and different beliefs. But despite these differences, it seems possible that the two, had they gotten over their guarded natures that day in 1922 or perhaps met to talk about the Clark Lectures in 1926, would have found much important in common. In 1922 both were on the cusp of finishing masterworks- The Waste Land and A Passage to India , respectively-the experience of which had nearly broken each of them. Forster in fact had been a great admirer of Eliot s work since his personal encounter with Prufrock and Other Observations while working for the Red Cross during World War I, and he would write one of the earliest-and thus surely the bravest-and most insightful attempts by a fellow author-critic to understand and explain Eliot s inscrutable poem. Eliot was an admirer of Forster s fiction and criticism, and he would later solicit Forster for some of his Indian material for the Criterion . But their work and letters reveal deeper personal, critical, and artistic common ground, not only in Indian philosophy and religion but also in a much broader new discourse that erupted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries of which their Indian interest was merely a part: that on the concept of religious experience. More particularly, both were seriously and extendedly engaged with the intersection of aesthetic experience and religious experience, the intersection of representation and the ineffable. It is that intersection which this book takes as its subject.
What Eliot and Forster engaged at that intersection, in commonsense terms, was the divorce of belief from beliefs-a dissociation of belief, to invoke the more theoretical term used in this book. To put it more poetically: We have the experience but miss the meaning. As a result, both the experience and the meaning become ironized and self-conscious objects of fascination. The resultant set of issues is the central problematic of Eliot s and Forster s best creative works, and its impact on art is the central problematic of their aesthetics. This is not the same as saying that they believed or felt or thought the same things, and that difference is at the heart of what dissociated belief means. It is also what makes them such an illustrative pairing for exploring its consequences. We speak rightly not of modernism but of modernisms, and modernist belief too is rich and prismatic, one and many. In one of the few things that Forster wrote about Eliot directly, he put it wonderfully that, despite their deep sympathies, the poet would eventually go both beyond [him] and behind. 12 Eliot ultimately saw something in dissociated belief to which he had to say avaunt and construct something / upon which to rejoice ; Forster embraced the failure of it and found in it a wellspring of humility blossoming into pity, hope, and love. These reactions are part of the crisscross trajectories outlined above, but neither can be reduced to a linear narrative of finding or losing belief, abandoning or finding modernism. Scholars ought not make sweeping definitive statements about periods and movements, but there is something in their more complex shared stories that is the very soul of modernism-what it means to engage religious belief in, and of, a secular age.
Secularization, Modernism, and Our Beliefs about Belief
The impact of the dissociation of belief is now so ubiquitous that we scarcely apprehend its significance, its complexity, or its novelty. But we also do not notice it because the traditional ways of viewing the relationship between modernism and belief seem to efface the very possibility of our seeing it. This is why it is important to start by shifting the very questions we ask about belief. Instead of asking when someone lost or found religious belief, or in what they believed, we must first understand better the question of how people believed or disbelieved-of what it means to believe in the modernist period. For modernist scholars, our gut response would seem to be that if we are talking about religious belief, it does not mean much. To the extent that it might, we would defend the notion that each believes or disbelieves differently, privately; maybe even partially, tenuously, erratically, and problematically. But all of that is indeed part of the how , and we need to contextualize better how we read belief to understand its nature and its significance. The misperception that this book attempts to correct is nicely drawn out by the implications of Woolf s sense of betrayal at Eliot s conversion: she took belief not as personally shocking but as an (appropriately ironic) obscene offense to the modernist sensibility-as if belief and modernity are mutually exclusive positions. For Woolf and her fellow modernists, Eliot s conversion was a death to time present.
Woolf s thinking reflects a theorization and a narrativization of secularity that took hold in the Victorian era, in which modernity is viewed as a product of rational and scientific modes of thought and characterized by a rejection of religious belief. The theory and narrative can take a variety of specific forms, but the general type is called a subtraction theory of secularization. The idea is that a number of forces-take your pick: rationalism, enlightenment liberalism, humanism, urbanization, the privatization of experience, for example-coalesce to chip away at religion s sway on human experience; it falls apart, piece by piece. This extra religious apparatus subtracted, we are left our secular, rationalist, unbelieving selves. Such was fleshed out in a number of sociological theories developed during the modernist period, exemplified by Max Weber s famous declaration that modernity is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world. 13 Secularization is modernization.
This is especially, it seems, according to literary critics of modernism-a fact that, as Pericles Lewis has argued, may have much to do with the influential rise of professional literary criticism in the early to mid-twentieth century when such unidirectional accounts were predominant. 14 Woolf s reaction indicates-and Forster s and Eliot s own self-formulations of their beliefs reflect, at least superficially-that this conception was common trade during the modernist moment; critics of modernism thus have been aided by the fact that their implicit assumptions were shared by the objects of their study. But such oversimplification is not a problem unique to criticism; it is symptomatic of thinking about religious belief in general: We still seem to see it-or want to see it-in black and white, yes or no, either/or terms. To borrow from Eliot, we have a profound sense that belief affects us as entire human beings. Conversion, following Augustine, is a turning ( converti ) of the whole self to a state of belief; in the popular sense, we are born again -holy and wholly. This sense holds with narratives that track the movement in either direction: in conversion or reconversion incomplete or blind or lacking secular understandings are moved beyond to positions of fullness and faith; with deconversion or the loss of faith disillusionment yields the very reality of secular exclusive humanism.
In terms of scholarly attention to religion in modernism, this thinking is of no small importance. It can foreclose on the very possibility of such scholarship by relegating religious engagement to something that must run counter to or be outside of the greater currents of aesthetic modernism s experimentalism, novelty, and complexity-Eliot s reception being a wonderful test case; at worst, because of the rhetorical hold of the narrative, it can be a powerful disincentive to sophisticated study in the secular academy-the most pernicious by-product being the prominent surrogate theory of modernist art. To return to Weber: few want to spend their time looking for an illusion ; even fewer would want to conduct academic study under one. Consider: When Jacques Derrida died in 2004, a higher-education reporter, sensing that his death marked the end of an era, gave the critic Stanley Fish a call to get a comment. He asked him what would replace high theory and the triumvirate of race, gender and class as the center of intellectual energy in the academy ; Fish answered like a shot: religion. Fish saw it as a major blind spot of the theoretical turn of 1970s criticism that was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. His point, and the point here, is not that these other areas are exhausted or need to be replaced, but that religion needs to get caught up. If you compare the average vocabulary and sophistication with which a graduate school literature student or a professor could discuss issues of race or gender with a classroom of students to their ability to discuss religion in that same text-which, if we were to be honest, most would not want to discuss at all-you get a good idea of what I mean.
If in the decade since Fish s pronouncement such a religious turn has indeed gained momentum, it would be fair to say that it has done so in an intermittent fashion, especially in modernist studies. A large part of the reason for this is the notion of all religious engagement as inherently premodernist that springs from problematic secularization narratives. To be fair: such thinking has also produced a body of devotional or quasi-devotional scholarship that positions itself as against or outside of the modern secular academy and its attitudes toward knowledge and experience, for the same problematic reasons. This is part and parcel with the culture wars mentality in which belief and secularity, religion and science are engaged in some kind of ongoing battle for hearts and minds. This is a popular false dichotomy, or at least popular in the media and popular discourse. Most intelligent people seem to dismiss it readily enough in actual thought and conversation as being what it is. But it is not so far from there to the simplistic linearity of belief or secularization narratives, or the monolithic sense of self that accompanies either of them, and these are narratives that academics-sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly-seem to reflect quite often.
Such narratives are problematic in and of themselves. But when modernity and secularity are equated and opposed to religion or belief, these narratives do double damage in that they merge with and inform critical understandings about an author s modernity. The cases of Eliot and Forster are illustrative. Eliot s conversion was a radical departure from his early modernist promise, and after 1927 he became not just more religious but also less modernist. This affects readings on both sides of his conversion. In his early preconversion work religious allusions and themes are read ironically, or as voices in a modern aesthetics of fragmentation and impersonation-or citation-whose formal function predominates, and not to be taken in any genuine religious way; or they are foreshadowings of the hole in him that religion will later fill. In his later postconversion work, his engagement with religious issues is often, and rightly, seen as vexed but still decidedly conservative and antimodernist (see chapters 3 and 5 ). Forster s entire life is read as a movement away from belief to a skeptical humanism. His refusal to avow any specific form of belief beyond the reach of his ironic turns is taken as a sign of his iconoclasm with respect to religion. In turn, his religious engagement is viewed through the lenses of mythopoeia, irony, and pragmatic liberal humanism, the specific set of qualities that, to the extent that Forster is considered modernist at all, reads as a list of his bona fides (see chapters 4 and 6 ).
Such readings are not wrong in any simple way, and the point here is not to advocate that they should be tossed aside. There is obviously an important sense of loss in modernist aesthetics-of various traditions, including religious ones-and religious symbols and ideas are often presented ironically or perform important aesthetic functions in modernist art. Eliot and Forster are not exceptions, and their standard narratives have merit. This is not about burning down straw men. In fact, the point being made here is served by the fact that previous studies, in various insightful ways, have reflected that the complexity of both Forster s and Eliot s engagements with belief are such that reduction to such narratives, and the monolithic model of the subject that they employ, is problematic. 15 Such is even truer if we take scholarship on Eliot or Forster and belief in the net (see the later chapters of this book). To be clear about something else: in arguing against loss/surrogate theories and reductions of religion in modernist aesthetics, this is not to state that we can strip away some kind of secular appearance and reveal a hidden religious content in modernist art, or that what everyone says was lost is found. (If this brings some sense of relief from skeptical readers, who have been anxiously waiting to cheer or jeer for the moment I assert that Christ will pop out and take his rightful place in the modernist picture, note that this is only because of the prevalence of the linear subtraction theory of secularity.) Rather, the argument here is that we need to recast the relationship between religion and secular modernity by taking up the relationship between the two terms directly, to see how modernism reflects a moment in which religious engagement is situated always already within, and not mutually exclusive of, a modern secular background. The resulting picture allows us to see modernist literature engaging religious belief in deeply resonant and complex ways and to see modernist religious belief, conversely, as a fragmented, complex, and multidirectional experience. (To follow up on the previous aside: this also does not mean an accommodationist understanding, in which religion and secular rationalism might be seen to divide up their claims over the self and knowledge and work in some sort of simple complementary fashion; see the coda in this book.)
The shift in understanding is necessary if we are to talk about religion in a manner that is not-to paraphrase Bertrand Russell on mysticism-offensive to the broader intellectual framework by which we understand modernism as a whole. More importantly, it is not just inoffensive but also accurate. The overlap between aesthetic and religious experience that is this book s territory comes from the work of the period. The writings of Eliot and Forster-along with a host of others from the late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century moment-are not just the case studies but the sources for conceptualizing the new understandings of belief in modernism. We should expect no less from an age defined by its self-consciousness. But it is also possible to turn for guidance to recent scholarship on secularization and modernization. There has been widespread debate in recent years, primarily in religious studies and sociology, that challenges the reductive understanding of secularity behind Woolf s reaction in a variety of ways. Steve Bruce and Peter Berger could be considered opposing camps in the contemporary debate, but perspectives are myriad. 16 Regardless of the stance of particular scholars, the debates as a whole have enacted a wholesale reassessment of the relationship between religion or belief and secularity in the twentieth century. Such reassessment hardly denies that there are tensions between the forces that characterize secularity and religious belief, but they necessarily complicate the relationship beyond one of simple opposition, and they offer new paradigms for engaging these tensions and their historicity.
A goal of this book is to open up better dialogue between current studies of secularization and modernist literary studies in the future by serving as a possible example. The former can offer to literary studies rich theoretical models and contextual understanding; the latter can offer analyses of real authors and works engaging the issues that secularization scholars theorize about as texts for study. The work that this book s examination of authors resonates most strongly with is Charles Taylor s A Secular Age . Taylor s nuanced approach has continuities with his Sources of the Self that will appeal to literary and cultural critics familiar with that work. A short overview of his approach is useful both as a framework for later reading of Eliot and Forster and for those unfamiliar with the broader secularization debates. Taylor s work is somewhat unique within those larger debates: rather than rejecting the notion that modernity is characterized by secularization, or even that it has become desecularized, Taylor has argued that modernity is definitively secular but that this should not make us exclude religion from the overall picture. 17 His argument was founded on the principle that most theories of secularization that do separate the two are not quite looking at modernity from the right angle. There are generally two families of candidate, he has summarized, for theorizing modern secularism: (1) those that deal with shifts in public spaces, that is, social and political institutions and practices being emptied of any reference to reality and religious practice becoming a private issue; and (2) those that deal with a general decline or falling off of religious belief and practice, that is, people no longer going to church, and so on.
Rather than these two conceptions, which Taylor found limited for a host of reasons, but not necessarily wrong within those limitations, his study looks at what he calls the conditions of belief that affect both 1 and 2 above-a shift in the social imaginary and what he calls the context of understanding or the conditions of experience of and search for the spiritual. 18 Following Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and others, this is what Taylor calls the Background of the subject of belief-the taken-for-granted, as it has shifted from 1500 to 2000. 19 In other words, his approach seeks to articulate the ways that people experience, understand, and contextualize the questions surrounding belief and unbelief, and how they change. Or, as Eliot would say in 1926, in a passage that in a sense this whole book is meant to restore full meaning to: I suggest to psychologists that Belief alters from age to age, so that when a person asserts I believe X. we must take into account the position in time of the author in the statement. And mind you, I am not speaking of the object of belief, but of the believing itself. 20
Attention to this background of belief leads to Taylor s redefinition of the secular age, that is, modernity in the West, against those common subtraction narratives nodded to earlier. It also rejects the ways that common secularization theories tend to oppose modernity/secularity to the premodern/presecular and in doing so present secularity and religion as not only opposed terms but also in the sense that religion must decline 21 -exactly the understanding behind Woolf s rejection of Eliot. Taylor understands secular modernity to be characterized by religious loss in certain simple senses-orthodox practice, naive belief, public spaces-but he nevertheless maintains that there are new, modern forms of religious engagement that are situated within that broadly secular background of understanding: there has certainly been a decline of religion. Religious belief now exists in a field of choices which include various forms of demurral and rejection; Christian faith exists in a field where there is also a wide range of other spiritual options. But the interesting story is not simply one of decline, but also of a new placement of the sacred or spiritual in relation to the individual and social life. This new placement is now the occasion for recompositions of spiritual life in new forms, and for new ways of existing both in and out of relation to God. 22 These new forms of religious engagement, Taylor argues, operate in modernity from within the context of a disenchanted, modern, and secular age. The defining characteristics of this age are a lack of na vet , an immanent and humanistinfluenced conception of reality, rationalism, and the default acceptance of a tremendous variety of positions ranging on a spectrum of belief to unbelief in which choice is accepted and, increasingly, unbelief is the default option.
Existing within this secular background of understanding, Taylor talks about new forms of religious engagement that emerge as a result of what he calls cross-pressures, 23 an important term for understanding the positioning of a variety of thinkers in this study. These cross-pressures are, in simplest terms, against religious orthodoxy or tradition, on one side, and, on the other, against models of what Taylor calls exclusive humanism -understandings of rationality and/or humanist values that completely exclude a God or transcendent force and account for the individual, society, and the universe in entirely immanent or material terms. 24 The historical roots of such cross-pressures are complex, but the main strands can still be usefully sketched: on one side, modern secular humanism and Enlightenment instrumental rationality put pressure on Orthodox Christianity and related traditions; on the other side, pressuring against a move to exclusive humanism, are romanticism and what Taylor calls the immanent counter-Enlightenment, which calls into question exclusive humanism, Enlightenment rationality, and Christian orthodoxy. 25 Critiques of any of these frameworks of understanding can manifest in a variety of engagements in which the question of whether or not one is open or closed to the issue of transcendence-even while nonetheless working within a default immanent frame-is held in suspension, varies with regard to specific concerns, or is otherwise difficult to navigate: direct new concerns with the transcendent as a source for human fulfillment; concern about the leveling effects of humanism, such as the loss of the older aristocratic ethos or a loss of the heroic; appeals to creative forces of excess, chaos, destruction, violence, and death as against the humanist conception of a benevolent and ordered universe, as well as exclusive humanism s conception of fulfillment as being confined to human life; critiques of materialism; and a focus on the dangers of rationality as suppressive or limiting in favor of a focus on the sensual and bodily. 26
The pressures manifest in what Taylor calls the nova effect in the late nineteenthand early twentieth centuries-and later, post-World War II, the supernova -the predominant characteristic of which is that the question of belief and unbelief becomes fragmented and fractured into a host of different questions and concerns that all register the impossibility of any simple opposition between religion or belief and secularity. As Taylor summarizes, Instead of seeing [modernity] as the scene of a two-sided battle, between tradition, especially religious tradition, and secular humanism, we might see it as a kind of free-forall, the scene of a three-cornered-perhaps ultimately four-cornered-battle [in which] the debate swirls among a wider and wider range of participants, between whom a multiplicity of lateral, cross-cutting affinities arise. 27 In this cross-pressured picture, the idea of a simple opposition between religion and modern secularity, or between positions of belief and unbelief, becomes untenable. These pressures lead to a variety of positions-all situated within a default, secular frame-in which the question of whether or not one is open or closed to a transcendent power is difficult to navigate and ontological commitments uncertain. One can hold positions that, simultaneously, present rational critiques of religious belief-including mystical or experiential religion-and experiential critiques of the limits of rational or otherwise secular modes of engagement. It is likewise possible to see how positions of traditional belief conceive of the limits, scope, and function of that belief in secular and pragmatic terms. Not only is a genuine but partial position possible, but in addition people can have different positions with respect to various questions or problems. Likewise, cross-pressures that might fall on either side of the belief or unbelief question can present themselves in varying strengths over time without being resolved altogether. 28
Taylor summarizes thus that the salient feature of Western societies is not so much a decline of religious faith and practice, though there has been lots of that but rather a mutual fragilization of different religious positions as well as of the outlooks both of belief and unbelief. Moreover, the effect is total: The whole culture experiences cross pressures, between the draw of the narratives of closed immanence on one side, and the sense of their inadequacy on the other, strengthened by encounter with existing milieux of religious practice, or just by some intimations of the transcendent. 29 Although he traces many of these strands from which cross-pressures arose quite far back in their inception, they built strength in the nineteenth century, took strong hold after the spread of the new cosmic imaginary fostered by Darwinian theory and geological deep time, and exploded after World War I. 30 In other words, they exploded concurrently with high literary modernism.
Modernist Literature and What It Means to Believe in a Secular Age
Taylor s study-wide ranging though it is-only briefly touches on the implications of its argument for a rethinking of modernist art and aesthetics. His discussion of art is primarily relegated to romanticism, a particularly problematic choice for modernist scholars who posit a strong rupture with that period-not least due to Eliot s romanticism-crushing influence (discussed at length in chapter 5 ). But those areas in which cross-pressures emerge and in which Taylor locates new and complex engagements with belief in modernity-intimations of transcendent experience, critiques of entirely rational accounts of reality, forces of creative excess or irrationalism, the social limits of liberal humanism and its problematic effacement of an elite-are obvious areas of concern for modernist art and aesthetics and are areas that literary studies of modernism engage every day. However, critics have consistently read these issues through an understanding of secularity that, implicitly or explicitly, opposes modern secularity to religion or modernist unbelief to premodern belief. Such treatments thus tend either to reduce, in a formal sense, the possibly religious dimensions of modernist art and aesthetics or to minimize them in unsatisfactory ways.
There are three related and widespread scholarly views that this project is meant to challenge, all of which contribute to a de facto opposition between modernist and religious by equating modernity with a conception of secularity that defines it in a mutually exclusive opposition to religion. Note that this chapter refers to readings of literary modernism in general; later chapters will deal with specific critical assessments of Eliot and Forster and various of their works:
(1) The first and most common viewpoint is that art in modernity is a secular replacement or surrogate-usually one of several-for a lost religious center, an idea that dates most influentially to Matthew Arnold s 1880 The Study of Poetry. An illustrative case in terms of recent criticism is the sweeping argument of the prominent religious studies scholar Theodore Ziolkowski in Modes of Faith: Secular Surrogates for Lost Religious Belief . As the title promises, Ziolkowski s book surveys, via analyses of personal biographies and texts for more than thirty literary figures, five surrogates to which individuals transfer the psychic energy formerly reserved for religion and in which they seek the same gratifications, and often the same form of rituals, as previously afforded by religion :aesthetics, specifically l art pour l art; the flight to India ; socialism; myth; and utopian vision. 31 Implicit in Ziolkowski s argument is a theory of secularization in which religion narrowly means only some form of (usually orthodox) Christianity. Once this religion is lost, there results a purely secular and nonreligious engagement with the various surrogates, and the two key terms are set in definitive opposition. This opposition is implied in the title and manifests in the simple religion-loss-(failed) secular surrogate narrative pattern ubiquitous in the book s analyses of individual cases and of European modernity as a whole. One problem with such a conception is that it is unable to view modern engagements with nonorthodox forms of belief as themselves religious. This is most blatant in Ziolkowski s chapter on Pilgrimages to India, in which potential interest in Eastern religion is a sign of religious loss and a search for a secular surrogate, rather than engagement with a new form of religious belief. 32 But the same view obtains in his treatment of modernist art. To view modernist art as a secular surrogate in such a sense precludes treatment of art as a liminal site of cross-pressured religious engagement, a space used to critique, simultaneously, traditional or orthodox religious belief and , simultaneously, entirely immanent or rational accounts of life, knowledge, and experience.
The narrative format common to Ziolkowski s overall argument and his particular readings is indicative of a larger problem inherent in the surrogate thesis, related to Taylor s attention to the changing background of belief in modernity. As Taylor wonderfully puts it, modernization is not a narrative of unbelief replacing belief; actually, the change is more drastic. It is more like cacophony replacing meaning as such. 33 The statement is difficult to get your head around-the argument of this book is that Eliot s and Forster s modernist literature helps us to feel and understand better what it means. But the errors of the surrogate theory can also help concretize it a bit. Think about the suppositions behind the very idea of art as a surrogate for lost religion: not only are surrogates rather obviously doomed to failure, but in addition the notion of a surrogate assumes that the potential source of meaning-previously religion, now the secular surrogate-is operating in a consistent background of understanding, or at the very least with a lack of awareness about how that background has changed. This is wrong from the start: The changes in human understanding of experience, meaning, transcendence, and so forth that are implicated in the loss of faith fundamentally changed the context of understanding in which the questions central to belief and unbelief are operating. Indeed they introduced new questions altogether.
A naive conception of a central source of values for the individual or society cannot be grandfathered in to modernity. The loss of such na vet is integral to the supposed quest for a surrogate, as it is a fundamental marker of modernist thought. In other words, the surrogate theory actually undersells the radical, and truly transformative, nature of secularization. One does not go looking for a different object for the same belief; what it means to believe has irrevocably changed. The idea of simply believing in something else that might then function in the ways religion used to is appropriate only for those who, paradoxically, never adopted a modern understanding. Modernist art gives us the real alternative: the cacophony that closes Eliot s The Waste Land or the undermining umbuom of Passage to India s echo. Neither alters the destination of narrative; they implode and explode the very possibility of narrative and the stable meaning it might establish.
(2) The second viewpoint to be challenged is that modernist literary criticism has more often seen a by-product of the surrogate thesis: art and aesthetics-to the extent that they are modernist-are viewed as secular and nonreligious modes, and this results in both a lack of religious context in modernist literary criticism-beyond that of loss or crisis-and, more often, formally reductive approaches to potentially religious issues. Consistent with the implicit religious versus modern/secular opposition in loss theories, modernist invocations of religion are seen as definitively inauthentic or abortive-framed by irony, nostalgia, or intense skepticism, or presented only in a fragmented sense as part of an aesthetics of patchwork citation. Analyses of potentially religious issues are framed in the secular discourses of contemporary philosophy, psychology, continuities with romantic aesthetic experience, myth studies, and so forth. Such framing is not necessarily problematic, as such secular horizons of understanding as philosophy, psychology, and sociology, for example, were in modernity often integrated with positions of religious belief. Critics, however, can be insensitive to the reductive nature of such contextualizations and tend not to acknowledge the difference between open and closed immanent understandings or to give credence to their religious dimensions. 34 This effaces the extent to which modernist art and aesthetics often functioned as explicit or implicit critiques of the reduction of human experience, knowledge, or action to entirely immanent or scientific frames of understanding, as well as the ways in which sincere religious engagement can exist simultaneously with ironic skepticism.
(3) The third and most serious consequence of the standard theorizations of secularity is that they tend toward overly tidy linear narratives with regard to belief. 35 Such narratives, in turn, rely on ironically premodern and highly monolithic conceptions of subjectivity. This is symptomatic of thinking about belief in general and occurs in narratives about the period as a whole and readings of particular authors.
How does any of this manifest concretely in our readings of modernist authors and of the period? The three issues above suggest three more nuanced approaches:
(1) Religious engagement needs to be examined from a standpoint at which it is possible from within, if often in tension with, a broadly secular background of understanding. We cannot exclude religion from modernist art or exclusively oppose the two simply because a traditional engagement with belief is absent or because religion is embedded in an understanding that reflects an ironic, ambivalent, rational, or otherwise modern secular context. Conversely, we need to consider the way that even seemingly traditional engagement is inflected by its modernist context, rather than opposed to it.
Calling modernist art a site of new religious engagement is using that term in a sense that will encounter resistance. Religion can make scholars feel vaguely backward-as Eliot to Woolf. We need a new paradigm, and the definition of religion that this project uses is supported by Charles Taylor but in fact comes from Steve Bruce, a staunch defender of the secularization narrative, in his essay Secularization: The Orthodox Model. Religion, he says, consists of actions, beliefs and institutions predicated upon the assumption of the existence of either supernatural entities with powers of agency, or impersonal powers or processes possessed of moral purpose, which have the capacity to set the conditions of, or to intervene in, human affairs. 36 If we take engagement with powers of agency or impersonal powers possessed of moral purpose in a broad sense, then modernist art s widespread engagement with a model of transcendent aesthetic experience with direct ties to religious experience (see chapter 2 ) certainly qualifies here.
The value of retaining the word religious is that it emphasizes the ways in which, for instance, as ubiquitous a concern in modernist literature as impersonality necessarily ought to involve us in a discussion of religious engagement and the problematics of belief. Forster would call his theory of impersonality anonymity, but the notion of transcending the self or involving a larger transcendent force in art is ubiquitous aesthetic modernism; the crisis of representation is a closely related problem, substituting the solipsism-experience as experienced-for the problem of reducing experience to material form. What is disputable in modernity are the limits of penetration of such religious powers -the extent to which they might set the conditions of or intervene in human affairs. But to explore such limits is often one of the deliberate tasks of modernist art. We cannot in any simple way preclude the possibility that such exploration is authentically or genuinely religious, even if in partial, fragmentary, or otherwise highly problematized ways. If we reduce modernist literature to the frameworks of philosophy, mythopoeia, psychology, and so forth, we exclude those critical senses in which modernist art serves as a space for the critique of the wholesale adoption of such secular frameworks-that is, for purely rational, immanent, or exclusivehumanist understandings of reality-even when such critiques are simultaneously cross-pressured and engage in rational critiques of religious positions.
If readers take such a definition of religious as too broad, I cannot in the end quibble, but merely opening up the word to debate in modernist studies constitutes an important success. Read belief in its stead if you like, and I will often use the substitute terms as well. The point here is that we need to force ourselves to consider the ways in which terms such as secular and religious, belief and unbelief become unstable in modernity and are both more open and more problematic than their common usage. It is the instability and the power of these terms that make them more appropriate than alternatives.
(2) The idea that secular and religious positions are mutually exclusive in modernity is simply untenable. More than this, though, seeing modern religious engagement as cross-pressured suggests that linear and monolithic readings of belief with respect to particular authors, and particular works, are similarly oversimplifications. This is true across various issues in any given moment or text and, as importantly, across texts and over the course of a given writer or artist s career in regard to particular questions. Not only is a genuine but partial belief possible, but artists can at any one moment occupy different positions on a possible spectrum ranging from belief to unbelief with respect to different questions or problems; likewise, various cross-pressures can present themselves in varying strengths over time with respect to particular religious issues, without ever being resolved altogether. A common thread of Forster s and Eliot s thoughts in the 1920s is the extent to which they hold positions that simultaneously present rational critiques of religious belief-including mystical or experiential religion-and experiential critiques of the limits of rational or otherwise secular modes of engagement.
The net position is what is called here dissociated belief : a fragmentary exploration of transcendent experience situated within a secular and skeptical background of understanding and pressured equally by stances against orthodox religiosity or mystical epistemologies and against totally immanent or rational accounts of being, knowing, and art. The term of course comes from Eliot s famous dissociation of sensibility, but its use here is informed not only by Eliot s and Forster s works but also by the works of a number of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century writers on religious experience, most notably William James. The most consistent element of dissociation is the separation of belief from attachment to specific determinate beliefs-a separation that represents both the most strikingly radical element of modernist belief, its most problematic for those who experience it, and its most powerfully influential legacy. Understanding its importance in modernist literature is essential to understanding the period s lasting resonance in contemporary life.
That is a large claim to swallow; so, to expand: Think of the seemingly trite contemporary credo I m spiritual, not religious. This is a cross-pressured stance, with both antireligious and anti-exclusive-humanist pressures. One might say that a position such as that hardly constitutes belief, it is so soft and undeveloped. But that is precisely the point. In modernity people seem to be capable of engaging religion as an open exploration, or as something that they feel while remaining distanced from specific doctrine or ideals, or while viewing those ideals as themselves subjective or relative, with implications for their broadly secular framework of understanding that are neither clear nor totalizing. Someone can fall into different places on an imagined unbelieving/believing spectrum depending upon specific questions, or their level of belief can vary in intensity from question to question or change over time.
(3) Seeing belief in the context of a modern understanding means that there is value in mirroring Taylor s attention to the background of belief-that is, the context in which individuals process their engagements with belief, as well as with knowledge and experience more broadly. It is the running argument of this project that with respect to belief in modernity, the question worth asking when we look at specific authors and works is not first what or when someone believed or did not, but what it means in modernity to say I believe in X . The defining characteristic of this question in modernity is that it has become, like everything else, acutely self-conscious. Forster s and Eliot s works show this time and again, and they attempt to grapple with the consequences.
To paraphrase William James, this study is meant to open a door rather than provide a finished map. As a narrative of the full implications of modern religious discourse for either writer, this study can be only suggestive; it focuses on two corresponding points (1922-24, 1926-27) along an extended time line (1910-33) in which both of the writers in question were extremely active as critics and creative writers. Inevitably, in order for both to be covered in the same study, sacrifices were made regarding detail and some range in terms of each writer in order to look at specific works in greater depth. The comparative nature of the study is meant to be part of its merit and evidence for its premise; the close readings of particular texts are meant to serve as examples of potential and, in the case of the Clark Lectures, to bring attention to what are critically underappreciated texts.
2
The Modern Background of Belief and Religious Experience
Eliot s and Forster s explorations of an overlapping religious-aesthetic experience show up again and again in their actual works, and those works will be the arena for really seeing the importance of religious belief in modernist literature as well as what that belief means. Both-despite but not apart from one s eventual orthodoxy and the other s stance of unbelief, or rather, nonbelief -had serious and sustained interest in the discourse surrounding the concept of religious experience that emerged in the early twentieth century: both read widely in new studies of religious experience as well as traditional and mystical religious texts, Western and Eastern; and both underwent religious experiences personally that figured prominently in their art and lives. It might seem appropriate, then, to begin by claiming that aesthetic experience is a variety of religious experience. After all, it is often classified as such in studies. But that is also to get the story exactly backward. In fact, the very idea of religious experience as an independent concept has its roots in theorizations of aesthetic experience. And then too, despite that fact, there is the very real question in the period of whether any experience, aesthetic or otherwise, can rightly be called religious, and how and why, and what that even means. The narrative is thus tangled from the beginning, and that tangle, really, is the appropriate place to begin.
The discourse surrounding religious experience in the early twentieth century was an incredibly new one, and one that reflected with unique force the peculiarities of modernist belief as a cross-pressured space. If in modernity the question of belief/unbelief becomes self-consciously fragmented into a series of new questions, the discourse of religious experience has the benefit of showing us, concretely, what some of those questions are and allows us to track engagement with these same questions in modernist literature.
Talk of religious experience as something new or uniquely modernist is likely to raise eyebrows, so some contextualization is necessary. Although accounts of what we now call religious experience or mystical experience 1 are as old, older even, than most religious traditions, that religious experience is an irreducible type of experience to be taken as an object for study or independent practice is an idea new to Western modernity. Both the Western and the modern parts of that claim seem objectionable precisely because of the success of modern Western theories of religious experience, which presented it as both natively oriental and (paradoxically) perennial and universal. Although clearly linked to the explosion of interest in Eastern religion in the West-Eliot s and Forster s cases included-religious scholars have argued persuasively that the idea that Eastern religions are inherently experiential -as in Western conceptions of Hinduism and Buddhism, opposed to the doctrinal, law, and tradition-based Judaism and Christianity-is factually and theoretically baseless. 2 The concept of religious experience is traditionally traced to Friedrich Schleiermacher s On Religion (1799), but it reached wide acceptance following the hugely influential work of William James 3 and the explosion of interest in mysticism-scientific, scholarly, and popular-that followed in the beginning of the twentieth century. In other words, it is very much of the modernist moment.
The increasing circulation of the idea of religious experience manifested in two broad new understandings, one particular and one comparative. First, religious experience was conceived of as unmediated experience divided from-to varying degrees-any particular system of meaning or values derived from it, or even from any particular articulation, memory, or conceptualization of it. Second, there was a related rise in so-called perennialist conceptions of religion, a term later made popular by Aldous Huxley s The Perennial Philosophy (1946) but common to scholars and studies of religion well before him, including Schleiermacher, James, Emile Durkheim, Rudolph Otto, and others. Perennialist conceptions hold that there is some unmediated core experience or experiences universal to all religions and independent from differences in doctrine, form, moral or social code, and so forth, which are to varying degrees attempts to express the content or meaning of that experience constructed by linguistic or cultural context, as we would say now. Perennialist conceptions were hugely important for the development of comparative religious studies as a discipline, as well as more popularly for the rise in interest in Eastern religious traditions in the West.
The rising prominence of religious experience in modernity can be attributed to various causes, the contradictory nature of which are a good indication of its inherently problematic nature: it has been invoked as a means of forestalling scientific critique of religion by relegating religion to something private and ineffable, as well as (paradoxically) a means of asserting the presence of irreducibly religious phenomena in order to define and stake a claim for religious studies as an independent scientific field. It has been an important means for Christians in modernity to deal with competing systems of belief and with Christianity s schismatic history, as well as a gateway for Western contact with Eastern religious traditions in the early twentieth century and a separation from orthodox Christianity (nondenominational Christianity is a version of it, as is broader religious pluralism). It is thus an incredibly cross-pressured space, in which Church, science, and new understandings such as spiritualism or occultism have all staked claims-sometimes competing, sometimes accommodationist, sometimes simply simultaneous. Most importantly, it has been a means of continuing engagement with religion in modernity, despite making that engagement contingent in important ways upon a rejection of traditional religious dogma, traditions, and practices-or, at the very least, a relativist tolerance of difference and variety with regard to actual dogma, traditions, and practices. These shifts are signs of a drastic change in modern religious belief; their ubiquity as attitudes is a sign of an even bigger change in the background of belief.
Religious experience is a term that, by its particular nature, resists definition. Beyond being some kind of emotionally charged experience that, to the experiencer, is believed to be transcendent and often transformational, there is little on which scholars of religion or mystics agree. It emerges as a concept in Schleiermacher s work as a resistance to the reduction of belief to doctrine, practice, or tradition that nevertheless seeks to provide a means of authenticating true religious experience in contradistinction to delusional or false belief. 4 In works by Schleiermacher and late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars such as James or Evelyn Underhill it is a site of resistance to purely philosophical or otherwise scientific and rational approaches to human experience, and particularly to refusal of purely rational and philosophical analyses of religion. It tends in accounts by mystics and by scholars who are themselves mystics to hermeneutic and intuitive approaches to meaning and interpretation. 5
It is not in the purview here to engage in debate about the concept of religious experience or its definition; 6 instead we should think about how its discourse foregrounds particular problems related to religious engagement in its historical/cultural moment. It is difficult to talk about even those problems concretely, but we can achieve some headway and specificity by looking at James s influential 1902 study The Varieties of Religious Experience in context with a variety of other approaches with which it is in conversation. 7 The study of religious experience, of course, was not James s only influential field. He coined the term and developed the theory of stream of consciousness in his 1890 Principles of Psychology and adapted and developed the philosophy of pragmatism (see the 1907 work of that name) from the work of C. S. Pierce. Both of these strands had a profound impact on modernist art and aesthetics, and their more apparently secular influences have been much studied by modernist critics. But James s study of religion has been largely ignored and, more importantly, so has the extent to which all of his works exhibit precisely the cross-pressures focused on here. 8 This is despite the fact that James s works on religious experience strongly reflect elements of both pragmatism and his complex attention to consciousness. James s work on religious experience is taken as the primary lens here not because he is the only or best approach to the subject, but because he seems to have had rather a unique ability to crystallize ideas that were strongly characteristic of his historical moment, and to do so in particularly influential ways. The Varieties is no exception. With respect to this project James is also illustrative because he is so strongly caught between cross-pressures amid which other thinkers tend to lean consistently in one direction or another.
James s Varieties culminates in two lectures, XVI and XVII, on mysticism, in which James defines mystical experience according to four qualities, two major, and two minor. Those qualities can be summarized as follows: (1) Ineffability . It is a negative state. It cannot be expressed or reported and cannot be imparted on others, and its accounts rely heavily on paradox and often proceed by negations. It is more like a state of feeling than of thought or intellect. (2) Noetic quality . Although like a state of feeling, it seems to experiencers to be a state of knowledge and insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. Thus they carry a sense of epistemological authority for aftertime. 9 (3) Transiency . Religious experiences cannot be long sustained. Their quality after fading cannot be reproduced in memory, though recurrence can be recognized and continuous development through recurrences is attested to. (4) Passivity . Although the oncoming of mystical states can be facilitated by voluntary operations, once the state arrives the mystic feels as if her own will is in abeyance, sometimes as if she is grasped and held by a superior power.
Problems with each quality and tensions between them are no doubt immediately apparent. However, elaborated here is a set of specific questions that foreground the modern cross-pressured nature of religious experience and which will be important to the subsequent analyses of Forster and Eliot.
Is It Religious ?
The first and most serious question about religious experience in modernity is whether or not it is, in fact, truly transcendent experience or not-that is to say, whether it originates from and is closed or bounded by the self and can be explained by entirely immanent means; or whether it has its origins in something objective and outside the self, by virtue of which the subject in fact experiences something beyond individual subjectivity or even the material world. This rhymes, to borrow from Pound, with the general obsession in modernist aesthetics with the subjective/objective split and the related crises of meaning and representation. Investigation of the question in religious experience discourse is emblematic of the secular-scientific approach: observe and analyze evidence; draw rational conclusions. The discourse nicely exposes the limitations of objectivity in such questions. The importance of the question in general can be understood with reference to two subareas: (1) psychological or otherwise scientific reductions of religious experience; and (2) continuities with aesthetic experience.
(1) Psychology and the inside/outside debate . James s study is in conversation with other pre-Freudian, and later post-Freudian, explanations of religious experience as a sign of pathology or delusion rather than any authentic experience of an object or force outside of the self. 10 The substance of these readings is the subject of the opening of chapter 3 , but their nature can be summarized: As Freud s work would later draw out most systematically-in both The Future of an Illusion and Totem and Taboo-the personal, private, and experiential nature of religious experience opened religion to psychological accounts that explained its phenomena in purely closed immanent terms. 11 We can see the pressure of such accounts at work in The Varieties in the chapter on mysticism, blurring the question of whether James s own study embodies what we would call a closed or open immanent stance. He resolves that under scientific evaluation religious experience is indistinguishable in kind, though for him not in degree, from states of intoxication-for example, those induced by drunkenness, chloroform, and nitrous oxide 12 -as well as, clinically, being indistinguishable from certain pathologies or delusional states. He takes as a given that to the medical mind these ecstasies signify nothing but suggested and imitated hypnoid states, on an intellectual basis of superstition, and a corporeal one of degeneration and hysteria. Undoubtedly these pathological conditions have existed in many and possibly all of these cases. but, James continues, that fact tells us nothing about the value for knowledge of the consciousness which they induce. 13 Furthermore, he stops well short of actually declaring religious experience from being definitively explicable in purely immanent terms such as intoxication or pathology. In several key passages he seems to insist that entirely immanent or scientific reductions are inadequate: [In my experience there are] other forms of consciousness [without which] no account of the universe in its totality can be final. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality. In these states it is as if the opposites of the world, whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity. I feel as if it must mean something. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear; to me the living sense of reality only comes in the artificial mystic state of mind. 14
James clearly says other forms of consciousness -this is a psychological study working in an immanent frame. But the language of reconciliation and the notion of opening doors are markers that, for James, closed immanent explanations rooted in scientific study, though they can account for religious experience on their own scientific terms, are inadequate by the very nature of those terms. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Other writers on mysticism, especially those who are mystics, such as Evelyn Underhill-taken as a useful comparative case to James in this book precisely because of this alternative position-make this antireductionist critique of rational approaches to religious experience even more emphatic. James exemplifies the modern cross-pressured understanding precisely because he holds both secular/scientific and religious/experiential viewpoints in suspension.
(2) Religious and aesthetic experience . Religious experience is inextricably tied to aesthetic experience, and virtually all studies of religious experience and mysticism acknowledge aesthetic experience as analogous to religious experience. It may be somewhat simplistic, but it would not be wrong, to say that Schleiermacher took the romantic idea of aesthetic experience and declared it in all authentic cases-that is to say, all cases where the experience actually was transcendent-to be religious experience and declared all religion fundamentally to be an attempt, to varying degrees of success, to understand and express that experience. As a personal and private experience of fulfillment, often of transformational or redeeming power, the romantic cult of aesthetic experience finds its way into British literary modernism via the influence of Pater and l art pour l art aestheticism, the French decadent and Symbol ste poetic traditions, and so forth. As Martin Jay has argued, both religious and aesthetic experience can be seen as important alternatives to the simple epistemological notion of experience of the eighteenth century:
If an achieved totality of experience in Montaigne s sense no longer seemed possible, what can be called the modalization of experience might favor partial alternatives that could provide what the epistemological variant lacked. Two in particular emerged from the shadow of experience as a cognitive tool in the eighteenth century. The first of these modalities was called religious experience; the second, aesthetic. Whereas the spirit may have been hegemonic in the former, while the flesh was paramount in the latter , a volatile mixture of the two distinguished each from the impersonality of the collective scientific subject. For both attempted to restore what was at stake for the suffering, creaturely, embodied individual, whose fleshly pleasures, spiritual yearnings, and finite lifespan meant that experience could not be understood as merely a question of reliable or unreliable knowledge. 15
In the emphases on the body and spirit, suffering, and the problem of death, we see precisely those cross-pressured concerns of romantic thinking and the immanent counter-Enlightenment that Taylor discusses as particular places in which modern engagements with belief are located. Elsewhere Taylor emphasizes that not only are the subtler languages of romantic art an active ground for new engagement with transcendence and critiques of various aspects of secular humanism, but in addition they demonstrate the curious trait of exploring potentially religious questions with their ontological commitments in suspense, undecided, or ambivalent. 16 In other words, precisely whether one could call the romantic notion of aesthetic experience open or closed to something that is beyond the material world or the human subject is often unclear, even in specific cases. Despite the emphasis of Jay s book on the modalization of experience and the differences between religious and aesthetic experience, he frequently cites the ambiguity between the two types. 17
This ambiguity, though, needs an important qualifier with regard to the importance of religious experience for modernist aesthetics. Because of modernist reactionary stances against a host of effects attributed to romantic individualism-including solipsism, neurasthenia, abulia, fragmented subjectivity, alienation and isolation from the social whole, the absence of sympathy and intersubjective experience, and so forth-the private and personal nature of religious experience is given too much emphasis in Jay s account, suggesting far too close a relationship with the cult of aesthetic experience. Jay has written that all accounts foregrounded the importance of inner faculties such as will, belief, or pious awe, rather than the passive reception of stimuli from without. And all were anxious to restore the irreducible personal moment in experience, which had been lost even if those approaching mysticism often then sought to go beyond it. 18 This is untrue. James, notably, names passivity as one of the four fundamental qualities of mystical experience, and it is central to any number of firsthand accounts, which claim everything from total self-abnegation, as in the Buddhist tradition most prominently, to mystical union with other individuals or a supreme force containing all individuals, objects, and so forth-the experience of the One and the Many. In modernism the ubiquitous problem of the solipsism means that it is this antiromantic claim to an experience that is not subjective, and thus is something beyond the irreducible personal moment in experience -something impersonal or anonymous, to use Eliot s and Forster s key theoretical language-that becomes the strongest appeal of religious experience. 19 This has critical implications for readings of continuities between religious experience and theorizations of aesthetic experience in modernity, and which are drawn out in later chapters on Eliot s and Forster s aesthetic theories in the 1920s.
The Dissociation: Religious Experience and Its Products
Even if religious experience itself is taken to be genuinely religious, a more pervasive problem resides in the tension between the qualities of it that James calls ineffability, noesis, and transiency. The issue is this: if mystical experience itself is an unmediated experience of the divine or absolute but is ineffable and transient, to what extent does the authenticity of that experience extend to its products-that is to say: the experiencer s account, memory, conceptualization, or representation of it; any text or work inspired by it; belief in any specific principles, meanings, values, traditions, or forms of religion resulting from it; correspondence to and authority over any behavior, action, or practice that is felt to be verified or endorsed by it? In terms of the discussion above: even if the experience itself is authentically religious, is it not possible, even necessary, that everything derived, created, or learned from it is definitively subjective, that is, inauthentic, nonreligious, personal? 20
One aspect of this problem can be thought of in terms of perennialism: in order for mystical experience to be the common core of religion universal to all traditions, there needs to be a division between the experience itself and its determinate content, since differences and contradictions abound between and often within given accounts. As James says, reports in comparison represent nothing objectively distinct. So many men, so many minds ; the accounts and the beliefs they claim to support are as infinitely varied as are the idiosyncrasies of individuals. 21 The spectrum of positions is easy to envision: on one end would be strong perennialist positions-Aldous Huxley s Perennial Philosophy , James s Varieties of Metaphysical Experience , and Eliade s influential studies are good examples-that resist, at least nominally, privileging any given particular set of practices or tradition and focus on an ineffable common core divorced from doctrine or morality (aside, notably, from advocacy of pluralism); on another end would be Christian theologians who argue that all religions emerged from and tried to give expression to mystical experience but that the Christian revelation was the only truly or fully authentic expression (although which form and aspects of Christianity are endorsed vary)-here we can class Evelyn Underhill s influential study (see chapter 3 ) or, most ironically, Schleiermacher s. 22
Beyond this comparative setting, the religious experience/products gap is a major issue in individual understandings and accounts of religious experience as well. It surfaces in epistemological crisis and in what we might call a crisis of representation for individual experiencers. Firsthand accounts often express the knowledge obtained in religious experience through self-contradiction; definition by negation, which is an important part of the apophatic tradition; paradox; or reference to nonrational or suprarational modes of expression such as poetry and music. The arts become supremely important in this respect because of their apparent ability to function through emotions and feelings rather than conscious thought. On the other hand, James notes that despite the crisis of representation that results, mystical experiences bring to the experiencer a sense of access to fuller or higher meaning and are the great exciter of the Yes function in man. 23 In other words, after religious experience one gives assent not just to a vague belief in the beyond but to belief in the truth of specific practices, meanings, values, even entire traditions. 24 The divide between the experience and its products was sufficiently weak for Jay to argue that religious experience is best thought of in terms of the set of behaviors that were derived from it. 25 This conception held in the early twentieth century and is exemplified in this study by the work of Evelyn Underhill, for whom the fully transformational aspects of mystical experience are its hallmark, which she dubs the mystic way : one who undergoes religious experience leads an active life of devotion and love, based on a definite knowledge of absolute truth gained in mystical union with the divine. 26
James approaches the difficult division of religious experience from its products through his unique conception of noesis, an epistemological position central to later readings in this study. In James, the divide between religious experience and its products is strongly emphasized. His noetic quality means that religious experience is properly more like a state of feeling than thought, and yet it is felt by experiencers to contain knowledge. James holds that though such states seem to authorize specific content and bodies of knowledge-visions, words, doctrines, systems, and so forth-there is actually a division between the pure experience, which is emotional, and such secondary products that spring from its intellection. This division cannot be overcome, since the experience itself is ineffable but also transient and passive: the normal self or consciousness does not seem to participate in the actual event (passive), and the state does not carry over in its pure state to the time when the self returns to its normal state (transient). As a consequence, James argues, religious experience has no intellectual content whatever of its own. This dissociation results in his final pragmatic position: To the medical mind these ecstasies signify nothing but suggested and imitated hypnoid states, on an intellectual basis of superstition, and a corporeal one of degeneration and hysteria but that fact tells us nothing about the value for knowledge of the consciousness which they induce. To pass a spiritual judgment upon these states, we must not content ourselves with superficial medical talk, but inquire into their fruits for life. 27
As an intense emotional experience divorced from its subsequent resolution into knowledge, conscious memory, or representation, the value of such experiences and their fruit must be ascertained by empirical methods, so long as we are not mystics. 28 However, the fact that religious experience and its noetic effects exceed and supersede rational consciousness-even to the point of reconciling obvious logical or conscious contradictions or transforming one s entire conception of reality-means that such evaluation is in practice difficult, even perhaps impossible, for those who undergo the experience. The resultant picture gives an epistemological weight to the emotional dimension of religious experience but is countered by James s rational critique that such experiences are devoid of determinate content. This unresolved epistemological tension is critical to understanding dissociated belief in modernity. It also sets up art, because aesthetic experience is theoretically restricted to emotions and feelings, as a unique space for exploration.
The Limits of Authority and the Reductionist Debate
Authenticity, dissociation, and rational evaluation all surface as issues in James s attention to questions about the authority of religious experiences. James resolves that religious experiences are authoritative only over the individuals who have them, are not binding to others, and break down the authority of nonmystical or rational consciousness. But religious experience appeals to a higher authority than the individual, and as such is often felt to have authority over all. Moreover, its ability to break down the authority of the rational consciousness means that whatever beliefs result from it are perhaps impervious to pragmatic, or any other rational, evaluation. Despite James s advocacy of analyzing the fruits for life pragmatically, he says in The Varieties and elsewhere that people cannot be reasoned into ceasing to believe any more than they can rationally determine which form of belief is best and then will themselves to believe in it. We cannot suspend belief or disbelief. James explicitly sought to avoid this misunderstanding in both his lectures on The Will to Believe and in subsequent writings. 29 Whether rational evaluation could alter practices or interpretations is an open question.
Apart from issues of subsequent behavior, morality, or object-of-study or analysis, this touches as well on epistemological and hermeneutic issues, which might in fact be the area in which the discourse of religious experience reaches furthest in terms of impact. Schleiermacher pioneered a hermeneutical approach, in which the part illuminates the whole and vice versa, to understanding language, art, texts, religious systems, and the world more broadly. 30 There is a potential gray area, though, as to the role of religious experience in the hermeneutic circle: hermeneutical approaches need not be religious, but in the discourse of religious experience it is contact with the absolute-the religious experience-that is seen to lead to reconciliation of apparent contradictions or paradoxes and revelation of deeper, holistic meaning. Religious experience can square the hermeneutic circle. But how a sense of deeper meaning resolves into concrete interpretations of particular language, texts, events, objects, and so forth-in part or whole-puts us promptly back into the issue of experience versus its products: does the revealed meaning also resolve rational, superficial, or linguistic meaning; or is it in excess to it but connected; or are the two levels of meaning completely independent? In the cases of works of art or inspired texts this is an issue for creation as well as reception: does a creation inspired by religious experience express or represent the knowledge gained in that experience in its form and content, or are form and content subjective and contingent factors while some excess quality that must be experienced is the real thing itself ? As importantly: can the experience of a viewer or reader of that work of art share in that experience ? How or why is this so? 31 The general problem of aesthetic representation cannot be better distilled as a problem or have higher stakes; the coincidence of this focus in religious experience discourse and the crisis of representation in modernist aesthetics is no coincidence at all; they are intimately bound.
This hermeneutic and epistemological set of problems has resulted in a final set of issues in the field of religious studies: the so-called reductionist debate that has been active in the field from its formation to the current day. Religious experience in the context of religious studies is commonly defined as a direct encounter [with the transcendent] not affected by linguistic, cultural, or historical contingencies, though understanding and articulation of it are conditioned. 32 Such a definition seems to make religious experience an object of study logically impossible; the irreducible experience is on one side of the division, and any object of study-text, practice, tradition, firsthand account, and so forth-by definition conditioned is on the other. Defenders of reductionism thus argue that religious experience holds no value as an object for study and has no claim to being actually unconditioned. 33 But for believers in religious experience as an irreducible phenomenon that is the real underlying basis of all religion, the claim of logical impossibility is evidence of the inadequacy of nonbelievers or outsiders to understand and to engage the real core of religion on its own terms, which only insiders are capable of doing. This was a common argument in accounts of mysticism written by people who are mystics-subsequent chapters take Underhill as an exemplary case. The problem made its way into religious studies via the work of Mircea Eliade, who in many ways is responsible for the formation of comparative religious studies as an academic discipline separate from others. Eliade claimed that religion was irreducible, meaning that it could be understood only in the terms of believers, rather than sociological or psychological terms, for instance. Exactly what he meant by believers terms is unclear; as he meant his own belief to qualify him and other religious studies scholars to study all systems that he regarded as religious, he clearly meant some kind of perennialist notion tied to his generic conception of the sacred. 34 From Eliade forward the debate has stood and has strong adherents on both sides. It also has, it should be noted, serious implications for anyone working on religious experience in aesthetic criticism (see Forster and Eliot) and for those working on religion in other fields (such as literature; see the coda in this book).
The set of issues and questions arising in discourse surrounding religious experience outlined above is meant to give something concrete by which to read for the background in which belief was engaged in modernity. The readings of Eliot and Forster in the ensuing chapters are meant to illustrate how an awareness of this background can lead to new understandings, interpretations, and readings. The extent of its impact on the general concerns widely held to be important for modernist literary criticism will have to be left largely implicit-the most obvious area is concern with the problem of the solipsism and the so-called crisis of subjectivity : fears over the impossibility of intersubjectivity or sympathy, the subject/object split, as well as the related ubiquitous sense of subjective fragmentation or dissociated consciousness within the individual subjectivity. As is apparent in the aesthetic theories of Eliot and Forster, the nature of the solipsism was such that people sought suprarational, nonphilosophic avenues to explore its attendant problems. In addition to the solipsism is the ubiquitous crisis of representation, in which the problems of the gap between religious experience and its products can be seen to add an important religious dimension to modernist investigations of artistic creation and reception.
Why Religious Experience ?
Some discussion of the emphasis here on the discourse of religious experience and this particular reading of it is useful to distinguish my approach from other recent works that have argued for the importance of reassessing religious engagement in literary modernism. Religious experience is taken as the central term instead of mysticism, but as these two terms are often used synonymously, that distinction is explained with reference to particular critical readings of Eliot and Forster as they are relevant. But religious experience is also taken in opposition to the term occult, and here important differences in contextualization can be usefully drawn out through comparison with Leon Surette s highly polemical work The Birth of Modernism: Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, and the Occult . Surette argues for the necessity of considering the influence of the occult on literary modernism, especially in its engagement with myth, rather than reducing potentially occult-influenced aspects to something purely aesthetic or sociological. He holds that the ubiquity of myth in modernist literature must be attributed at least in part to the occult belief that myths represent a record of contact between mortals and the au del . He is explicit about the polemical nature of his work and the strong term the occult, saying that its ideas, attitudes, and concerns are ubiquitous in modernism and especially strong in Yeats and Pound and to a much lesser extent in Eliot. 35 He adds that scholarship s long avoidance of naming the ideas as occult, in favor of more honorific terms such as wisdom tradition, or Platonism, for example, amounts to a scandal. 36 Surette convincingly evidences the involvement of those writers he focuses on in aspects of occultism such as the Theosophical Society and the Society for Psychical Research, and the importance of occult writers and thinkers such as Jessie Weston and A. R. Orage for understanding modernist aesthetics more broadly.
However, Surette s specific choice of the occult is tangential in key ways to the strain in modernism tracked here. Although Surette equates mysticism/religious experience and the occult in many ways 37 -and I certainly do not deny that they can be linked-the two differ in important ways. Most significantly, the occult is invested in a different epistemological understanding than religious experience is: the idea of a secret history or secret tradition that is for Surette occultism s distinguishing characteristic. Both occultism and religious experience attest to contact with the noumenal realm, but the former takes as fundamental the idea of permanent initiation-a transformation made possible through initiation rites, not necessarily pure religious experience-to a secret body of knowledge accessible only to initiates and contained in a secret tradition. 38
Occultism holds that revelation is preserved and handed down in written texts and in the oral traditions of communities of initiates and adepts. In all cases the wisdom, that is, the content of the revelation, is thought to be occult, that is to say, hidden, incomprehensible to all but the initiates. This is occultism s touchstone : beyond mysticism and belief in the divine, a belief that throughout human history certain individuals have had intimate contact with the divine and from this contact gained special knowledge (wisdom, or gnosis), which they have preserved in a form comprehensible only to the already enlightened and which is passed on in texts whose esoteric interpretation is preserved by secret societies. 39 Although I might not quibble with his reading of Yeats, or perhaps Pound, in the context of this secret tradition, his occult entails an epistemological surety and permanence that is critically in question in the related discourse of the modern study of religious experience. What is more, that questioning is the very essence of what makes the approach to religious experience definitively of the modernist moment-both in religious studies discourse and for Forster and Eliot. Although I might call the interest in the occult a subset of modern experiential religious discourse, and thus our studies not necessarily in conflict, I cannot speak for Surette, whose polemical stance suggests that he might not. 40 At any rate the term occult and the sense of history that defines it minimize rather than emphasize the obsession over epistemology, hermeneutics, and authority as problems, even alongside an acceptance of the reality of transformational experience.
Even with regard to religious experience, it should be noted that this study s approach is unique. Pericles Lewis s Religious Experience in the Modernist Novel touches closely on this study and as such merits some explicit comment here. His work shares similarities with my own in that it too questions the implicit secularization thesis behind common readings of modernist literature, it uses the work of Charles Taylor as an important touchstone, and it calls specifically for a closer look at sociological approaches to religious experience as a means of rereading engagement with belief in modernist literature. 41 However, aside from his explicit focus on the modernist novel-not insignificant given his specific attention to the novel s unique formal and psychological aspects-Lewis s argument differs significantly from mine.
The governing term of Lewis s reading is the modernist novel s search for the secular sacred, which he defines as a form of the transcendent or ultimate meaning to be discovered in this world, without reference to the supernatural. 42 The problem of this conception is that it reduces out of the picture those important possible engagements with something beyond the human-and possibly supernatural-that I argue are an important dimension of interest in religious experience. This is what makes the interest something religious in the sense in which that term is employed here in an intentional effort to emphasize the cross-pressured nature of modern religious engagement. It is also what makes art a potential space for the critique of what Taylor calls exclusive humanism. Lewis does not invoke Taylor s formulation of modernity as cross-pressured, and in fact his definition of the secular sacred seems intentionally to invoke an exclusive humanist understanding; he reads modernist novelists as living in a world without recourse to the unseen. 43
The idea of the secular sacred as exclusively humanist also makes Lewis s reading of William James-the figure central to the two key terms of this study, cross-pressured and dissociated belief -problematic. Although he notes that James was with regard to belief somewhat unique among the scientists studying religious experience who make up the basis of his study, he nevertheless sees James as resolving the epistemological conflicts between irrational religious experience and secular rationalism via the very rational philosophy of pragmatism. He even argues that one necessary conclusion of William James position was that we could, at some level, choose what to believe. 44 This is a misunderstanding of the relationship between mystical and rational epistemological claims that James sought explicitly to avoid, as it reverses the supersession of reason by belief in terms of religious experience s claims to authority over the individual-not an innocuous issue for Eliot, in particular (see my chapter 5 ). James is interesting to me precisely because his understanding in The Varieties and elsewhere forwards the impossibility of easily reconciling rational and religious/experiential epistemological claims and in the process forwards the related problems of a dissociation of belief (his quality of noesis ), the gap between religious experience and its products, and the limits of authority that might be placed on religious experience.
In utilizing the term secular sacred Lewis also often seems to advocate something like a surrogate theory of the modernist novel, in which the novel s secular sacred is a space in which novelists attempt through formal innovation and experiment to provide a secular substitute for the power that religion had lost when it moved from public to private space-that is, secularization. A kind of loss/surrogate theory informs the very format of his introductory chapters, which begin with Philip Larkin ruminating on the strange lost power of an empty church and move on to describe the novelists efforts to erect structures that will contain new sacred communities in place of the vanishing congregations of the lonely churches. 45 It should be noted, though, that he also acknowledges certain fundamental and incontrovertible changes in what I call the background of religious engagement, especially in terms of the privatization of religious experience, which would imply that even his loss/surrogate narrative is far from naive. This shift informs the bulk of his adaptation of Taylor, including his adaptation of Taylor s understanding of modernity as an age of authenticity. 46
In sum, some of the important differences between my work and Lewis s may be attributable to Lewis s particular attention to the modernist novel as a particular site of inquiry. All of our differences, along with my reading of his positions, are sites of productive debate.
Tom and Morgan
This overlap between religious and aesthetic experience and its newly attendant problems and questions arise again and again in the works of Eliot and Forster written through the 1920s and beyond. When you pay attention to them, those simple crisscross trajectories outlined in this book s chapter 1 turn into something more like modernist art: full of fragmentation and doubling and splitting, stasis and backsliding; all spiraling around the same set of issues, refracted into scores of different concerns. The result is a more interesting reading of both: a weightier Forster who deserves a place in serious literary modernism; and an Eliot who, even post-1926, remains dynamic and modernist-and, frankly, possibly relevant for more than just a coterie of readers.
Both Eliot and Forster come to similarly negative conclusions on the possibilities for a functioning union of religious and aesthetic experience, because of the dissociation of belief. But they are interested in different aspects of the questions posed above for interestingly different reasons, and they take virtually opposite directions in terms of their implications. Forster s work explores dissociated religious experience as something profoundly insidious-something that would seem to undermine the very possibility of meaning. A sophisticated irony in his work exposes the illogic and hypocrisy of hopes, including his own, that such could lead only to good or function as a space of total unity. Though he arrives at a committed unbelief, he maintains an open stance toward transcendent experience that continues to influence his liberal-humanist values, his hopes for art, and his criticism-none of which is fully understandable without understanding that stance. For Eliot, the great problem is that dissociated religious experience seems to be useless but undeniable and insoluble. The dissociation becomes a kind of obsession in his poetics and his criticism, as well as a lever for his turn to Anglo-Catholicism, his formulation of classicism, his ingenious history of poetry, and his own new art. Each of these shifts can too easily be seen as backward looking-in many ways opposite Forster s progressivism. What we can see better by seeing them together in this study is how each of Eliot s new turns is still embedded in the modern background of understanding, and thus in important ways indelibly modernist.

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