Innocence is a rich and emotive idea, but what does it really mean? This is a significant question both for literary interpretation and theology—yet one without a straightforward answer. This volume provides a critical overview of key issues and historical developments in the concept of innocence, delving into its ambivalences and exploring the many transformations of innocence within literature and theology. The contributions in this volume, by leading scholars in their respective fields, provide a range of responses to this critical question. They address literary and theological treatments of innocence from the birth of modernity to the present day. They discuss major symbols and themes surrounding innocence, including purity and sexuality, childhood and inexperience, nostalgia and utopianism, morality and virtue. This interdisciplinary collection explores the many sides of innocence, from aesthetics to ethics, from semantics to metaphysics, examining the significance of innocence as both a concept and a word. The contributions reveal how innocence has progressed through centuries of dramatic alterations, secularizations and subversions, while retaining an enduring relevance as a key concept in human thought, experience, and imagination.
Table of Contents
Carl E. Findley III
1 Affirmation and Negation: The Semantic Paradox at the Heart of Innocence
Elizabeth S. Dodd
2 The Innocence of George Macdonald
John de Jong
3 The Seduction of Innocence: Erotic Aesthetics from Kierkegaard to Decadentism
4 The Repentance of Language: Geoffrey Hill, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Poetic Integrity
5 Imaginative Innocence and Conscious Utopia in Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities
Carl E. Findley III
6 The Innocences of Revolution: Failed Utopias and Nostalgic Longings in Evgenii Zamyatin's We and Mikhail Bulgakov's The Heart of a Dog
7 A.I. – Artificial Intelligence: Genealogies of the Posthuman Child
Robert A. Davis
8 Can There Be Innocence After Failure?
9 Moral Innocence as the Negative Counterpart to Moral Maturity
Zachary J. Goldberg
Elizabeth S. Dodd and Carl E. Findley III
Elizabeth S. Dodd completed her doctorate on Thomas Traherne’s poetics of innocence at Cambridge University, under the supervision of Professor David Ford, and published it as Boundless Innocence in Thomas Traherne’s Poetic Theology (2015), along with a collection of essays on Thomas Traherne and Seventeenth-Century Thought with Cassandra Gorman (2016). Her research interests lie in area of theological aesthetics, and she is currently working on a monograph on the lyric voice in English theology. She lectures in theology, imagination and culture and in the ministry programmes at Sarum College in Salisbury, and is programme leader for the ministry MA.
Carl E. Findley III received his Ph.D. from The John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought at The University of Chicago. His research and publications (including works on Robert Musil, Dostoevsky, and Schiller) explore the labile borders that ideas traverse, probing diverse literary traditions and the translation of theoretical forms into avant-garde literary practices. Findley’s work interrogates the relationship between ideas and bodies, and the aesthetic and ethical possibilities from the collapse of intellectual praxis, religious paradigms, and gendered realities in 19th and 20th Century Austrian, German, Russian, and American novels. He is currently Lecturer of Liberal Arts at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
"'What, then, is innocence?' The question echoes that of Augustine on time, and there are no quick and easy answers. Yet the essays in this book, as an exemplary exercise in the interdisciplinary study of literature and religion, offer a rich and challenging response to that question. Beginning with the Bible, they engage with the problem of innocence though a range of literary texts that recover or explore the scriptural and historical roots of the idea of innocence that are too often forgotten in Christian theology. Rooted in these literary texts the book is aglow with theological and imaginative insights." - David Jasper, Professor of Literature and Theology, University of Glasgow
"While the best work in theology, the arts, and the humanities has long recognized the complexity of innocence, there have been too many occasions in which the concept has been idealized, distorted or dismissed. The last of these responses has been especially common in recent years, with scholars seeming to fear that an interest in innocence might risk the accusation of academic naivety. But as this rich and insightful collection makes clear, innocence can be thought about in all sorts of fruitful ways and deserves our sustained attention. With a careful eye to matters of form, history and theology, the contributors assembled here do a wonderful job of helping us to realize why the concept of innocence has the rich history it does, and why it deserves to be thought about anew. This is an important and rewarding collection." - Mark Knight, Lancaster University