By outlining Protestantism and Englishness in early-modern literature to the present-day, this study reveals how other religious identities can be alienated in British society. "England's Secular Scripture" seeks to trace English Islamophobia to its roots in England's Protestant past, and more specifically to its aesthetic and literary rooting in Protestant values. Carruthers argues that English antagonism towards Islam lies in part in the formation of English identities in early modern Reformation Protestantism. The book traces the transposing, and secularizing, of Reformation doctrines into a 'Protestant aesthetic'; of simplicity, individualism, and rationalism in the literature of Spenser and Milton. Wordsworth, Hardy, Eliot and Orwell, among others, perpetuate this aesthetic, one that continues to shape English mythologies up to the present day. Carruthers sheds light on contemporary Islamophobia, helping us to understand that Englishness is not merely a secular identity (combating what is seen as an irrational fundamentalist identity), but one informed, paradoxically, by Protestant logic and history.
This series aims to showcase new work at the forefront of religion and literature through short studies written by leading and rising scholars in the field. Books will pursue a variety of theoretical approaches as they engage with writing from different religious and literary traditions. Collectively, the series will offer a timely critical intervention to the interdisciplinary crossover between religion and literature, speaking to wider contemporary interests and mapping out new directions for the field in the early twenty-first century.
Jo Carruthers is Research Council Academic Fellow at the University of Bristol. Her reception history of the book of Esther, Esther Through the Centuries, will be published by Blackwell later this year.
Introduction; 1. The English Reformation: Spenser, Milton and the Protestant Aesthetic; 2. Secularizing the Protestant Aesthetic: Wordsworth, Eliot and Hardy; 3. Contemporary Englishness and the Protestant Aesthetic; 4. English dispositions and Islamophobia; Bibliography; Index.