Today the study of American religion continues to move away from an older, European American, male, middle-class, northeastern, Protestant narrative concerned primarily with churches and theology and toward a multicultural tale of Native Americans, African Americans, Catholics, Jews and other groups. Many of these new studies cut across boundaries of gender, class, and region, and pay particular attention to popular religion. Most current textbooks remain wed to the older Protestant narrative. The purpose of this reader is to expose students to a broad overview of the work emerging from this rapidly changing field
Matthew Arnold said it best: "Wandering between two worlds, one dead / The other powerless to be born." Late Victorian and early twentieth-century writers were caught on this dilemma of belief or rejection of God. Some took a leap of faith over those horns of doubt; others rebelled - but seldom completely. It was in their art that some of the issues were joined and others resolved. The essays in this collection examine six authors, from Thomas Hardy to D. H. Lawrence, tracing the arc of their spiritual quests from childhood to maturity, which resulted in the artist's religious and artistic achievement - that is, the Religion of Art. The priesthood of the poet, for example, was the Aesthete's belief that high art was beyond the bourgeois's understanding. Author or editor of fifteen books and many articles and reviews, Karl Beckson guides the reader through a remarkable literary world. Reviewing his "Oscar Wilde Encyclopedia" (AMS, 1998), Victorian Poetry wrote "Beckson's authority, established on decades of research, naturally gives the book a credibility wonderful to encounter during this time of poorly planned and atrociously printed 'scholarship.'"
Thepresentwork is arevisedand enlarged English versionofa book originally writtenin Spanish and published in late 1996, La rejlexion de DavidHume en lorno a /a religion. SinceDavidHume is arguablynot only the most important philosopherwhohaseverwrittenintheEnglishlanguage,butthemoststudiedand influential,itisonlynaturalthatsoonerthanlaterIwouldfeelthe urgencyto bring totheattentionofamuchwiderpublicaworkwhoseoutlook is, I think, signifi- cantlydifferentfrom that ofother books which deal with the Scottish thinker's worksonreligionandnaturaltheology.Thisdesirewassostrongastoallowmeto overcome the all-too-natural fear that my wavering and uncertain command of English wouldmakethe few valuableinsights theworkmight containappearun- clear,andmyphilosophicalerrors,evenmoreastonishing. This book is addressednot only to scholarswhomay beinterested in modem philosophy in generalorHume'sphilosophyofreligion in particular,but also to themoreextensivecompassofreaderseitherintriguedortroubledby religion and themyriadofissuesandproblemsitposes,whichare, as it were, the primematter forphilosophicalanalysisandtheorizing.Inspiteofitsphilosophicaland linguistic limitations,forwhichIamentirelyresponsible,Iferventlyhopethatthisworkmay befoundtocontainsomethingofthatelusivetruthafterwhichHumestrove, andto whichheremainedconstantto theend, particularlyatatime whenthe priceto be paidforthepublicationofcontroversialphilosophicalandreligious views wascon- siderablyhigherthanthatofbecominganeasytargetforuniversalridicule. Thecompletionofthisworkhasbeenmadepossible principally by asabbatical leavethattheUniversityofPuertoRico grantedme fortheyear 1999. This leave gavemethenecessarytimeto readandstudy thepertinentliterature,aswell asto writemostoftheEnglish manuscript.Italsoallowedmeto visit Edinburgh and spendmostofJuly andAugust 1999 attheNationalLibraryofScotlandand the EdinburghUniversityLibrary.Although Ihaveincorporatedinto thepresentwork onlyasmallpartofmyresearchatthose libraries,ifthis bookshows agreaterap- preciation of the immediate social and religious context of Hume's thought (particularly of Calvinistic theology and the Scottish Enlightement) than its Spanish predecessor, it is in no small measure due to the books, articles, and xi xii Preface manuscritsIwasabletoconsultatthe time. Inthis respect, Iwouldliketo thank Professor Peter Jones, Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the HumanitiesattheUniversityofEdinburgh, who was very instrumental in making myvisittoEdinburghareality,andgenerouslyputthefacilitiesoftheInstitute at mydisposal. Manythoughts andlinesofargumentcontained in this bookdatebackto my doctoraldissertation,andsomeearlierversionsofanumberofchaptersorsections ofchaptershavebeenpublished in differentphilosophyjournalsor anthologies. I oftheminthebibliographyundermy name. But sincemy previousworks listall onthe subjecthavebeenrevisedandmodifiedsomanytimes in the lightofnew fmdingsortomeetactualorpossiblecriticism,Ican saythatthey havebeeneffec- tivelysupersededbythepresentwriting.
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