Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Although there has been much interdisciplinary scholarship surrounding the influence of various novelists' Catholic beliefs upon their work, there has been relatively little discussion about the nature of faith that emerges in their novels. For instance, is faith portrayed primarily as assent to conceptual statements of belief?
This dissertation will argue that faith, as portrayed by various Catholic novelists, is fundamentally a person's imaginative orientation to trust and hope in the presence of God's grace in creation and human life. I will approach this issue through the category of uncertainty, specifically uncertainty's relationship to faith, as this relationship emerges in novels by François Mauriac, Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, Muriel Spark, Mary Gordon, and Shusaku Endo. I will examine their novels through the lens of two paradigms: The experience of uncertainty as a catalyst for Christian faith and the experience of uncertainty as a challenge and possible critique of a prior Christian faith. My discussion will build upon the thought of Martha Nussbaum, David Tracy, Karl Rahner, and Charles Taylor to consider the kind of "thinking" and imagining about faith presented by through the genre of the novel.
What will emerge in this investigation is the necessity of uncertainty as a means to prompt conversion, both before and after the conscious acceptance of religious belief. Further, this experience of uncertainty is manifested in the novels through literature's affective appeal which reveals both the ambiguity of emotions as well as the ambiguity of
faith itself. That is, faith will be seen as existing in a dynamic, existential relationship to uncertainty such that faith should be understood not as primarily propositional, intellectual assent, but as a surrender of the all-too human desire for certainty in the face of life's struggles, tragedies, and fickleness, a surrender that orients the believer towards an imaginative vision of ultimate reality lived with hope and trust in Divine Mystery.
Little, Brent, "Uncertainty Before and After Faith: The Dynamics of Belief in Theology and Literature" (2015). Dissertations. 1478.
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Copyright © 2015 Brent Little