Victorian Conversion Narratives and Reading Communities  book cover
1st Edition

Victorian Conversion Narratives and Reading Communities

ISBN 9781138272347
Published October 30, 2016 by Routledge
182 Pages

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Book Description

Because Victorian authors rarely discuss conversion experiences separately from the modes in which they are narrated, Emily Walker Heady argues that the conversion narrative became, in effect, a form of literary criticism. Literary conventions, in turn, served the reciprocal function as a means of discussing the nature of what Heady calls the 'heart-change.' Heady reads canonical authors such as John Henry Newman, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde through a dual lens of literary history and post-liberal theology. As Heady shows, these authors question the ability of realism to contain the emotionally freighted and often jarring plot lines that characterize conversion. In so doing, they explore the limits of narrative form while also shedding light on the ways in which conversion narratives address and often disrupt the reading communities in which they occur.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; How a capitalist converts: Dickens's theology and the realism of Dombey and Son; 'Must I render an account?': the ethics of genre in Charlotte Brontë's Villette; Gambling on conversion: the problem of relativism in Daniel Deronda; To sum up, to judge: the aesthetics of truth in Heart of Darkness; The afterlife of Oscar Wilde's conversion, or, what self-consciously literary college students say on Facebook; Works cited; Index.

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Emily W. Heady is Dean of the College of General Studies and Professor of English at Liberty University, USA. Her recent work has appeared in The Journal of Narrative Theory, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, and Prose Studies.


’Heady’s book demonstrates the centrality of the religious idea of conversion to Victorian authors whose modern readers are not themselves religious. ...valuable and rewarding...’ Journal of Theological Studies