Chesterton and Evil

Chesterton and Evil

Chesterton and Evil

Chesterton and Evil

Synopsis

In the engaging Chesterton and Evil, Mark Knight offers a compelling analysis of the increasingly marginalized, but undoubtedly influential Gilbert Keith Chesterton and his late 19th and early 20th century fiction. In his Autobiography Chesterton observed: "Perhaps, when I eventually emerged as a sort of theorist, and was described as an Optimist, it was because I was one of the few people in that world of diabolism who really believed in devils." Arguing that a serious analysis of the nature of evil is at the center of his fiction, Chesterton and Evil offers an exciting, new interdisciplinary reading of Chesterton's work, and provides a means of locating it among important theological and cultural concerns of his age.

Excerpt

The publication in December 1901 of The Defendant by Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874—1936) caused considerable debate. Gathering together a series of essays that had appeared in the Speaker earlier that year, the book offered a defense of various aspects of popular culture, including penny dreadfuls, detective stories, and useful information. Were a similar book to be published today, it would not be unreasonable to add Chesterton himself to the list of things in need of a contemporary apologist. Yet while his admirers are fewer in number than they were at the start of the twentieth century, people continue to read Chesterton's work. the willingness of publishers to keep reprinting books by him attests to this, as does the presence of several societies devoted to promoting and discussing his work. One might also note that the increasing number of undergraduate degree courses on crime fiction has helped to acquaint a new generation of readers with Chesterton via the Father Brown stories and ensure that he does not he completely forgotten.

In the process of writing this book, I have spoken to various scholars who, when pressed, recall “something interesting” in a work of Chesterton that they once read. Yet in spite of the healthy awareness among current scholars of his potential to contribute something interesting, there is little doubt that Chesterton has of late become an increasingly marginal figure in literary studies. Surveys of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries regularly ignore him altogether, as in the case of Douglas Hewitt's English Fiction of the Early Modern Period, 1890–1940 (1988), or include only the briefest of references to him. in David Trotter's The English Novel in History, 1895–1920 (1993), for instance, there is a short discussion of the Father Brown stories and just one other quote from Chesterton (relating to Charles Dickens). Glancing through the indexes of more . . .

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