The General Introduction establishes the study as one bridging literary criticism and theology and provides the conceptual scaffolding for the book as a whole. After opening with a statement of scope and terminology, it delineates a few key contextual issues: theories of secularization and the sacred, liberal Protestantism, the mystical revival, Theosophy, changing understandings of the poetic self from Romanticism and Symbolism through modernism, and the question of ‘late modernism’. The Introduction closes with a meditation on the challenges posed by linking the disciplines of theology, history of religions, and literary criticism. Citing both George Steiner’s taxonomy of forms of difficulty, which will be used as a hermeneutic device throughout the book, and Bruno Latour’s reflection on religious discourse as a ‘manner of speech’, it addresses the more empathic aspect of such scholarship.
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