Literature and Religion: A Study in Conflict

Literature and Religion: A Study in Conflict

Literature and Religion: A Study in Conflict

Literature and Religion: A Study in Conflict

Excerpt

If we are to view in proper perspective the spiritual and religious conflicts of our age, as these are reflected in drama and fiction and poetry, then we must endeavor at the outset to understand the nature of the relationship between literature and belief. Nothing is more drearily ineffectual than aesthetic theory that seeks to cut the writer off from the social and cultural roots that nourish him, the viable meanings of the immanent world that establish his horizon of vision. No one denies the writer the fundamental right to create in the image of the truth as he sees it, but even as this concession is made a number of basic questions arise that clamor for an answer: how does the writer exercise this right, out of what material does he compose this bafflingly complex testament of truth, his interpretation of life? What is more, to grant him this fundamental right is not the same thing as to attribute to him some mysterious potency of spirit, a quality both transcendental and ineffable, which lies beyond the scope of analysis. Certainly the poet or novelist or dramatist is not to be judged by the validity (how, after all, is that to be measured?) of his Weltanschauung . We treasure and are deeply moved by the mighty contributions of men as diverse in their world outlook as Sophocles, Lucretius, Shelley, Dante, Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dostoevski, Dylan Thomas, Eugene O'Neill, Albert Camus.

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