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A Grain of FaithReligion in Mid-Century British Literature$
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Allan Hepburn

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198828570

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198828570.001.0001

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Rebuilding the Church: Barbara Pym’s Parochialism

Rebuilding the Church: Barbara Pym’s Parochialism

(p.173) 5 Rebuilding the Church: Barbara Pym’s Parochialism
A Grain of Faith

Allan Hepburn

Oxford University Press

Despite being relegated to the sidelines of British literature as a female novelist, Barbara Pym holds faith with a central strand of literary culture, namely the place of the church in the community and the place of women within the Church of England. Pym anthropologizes religious observance, with particular irony directed at the exclusionary hierarchy of the church, which admits only men to its ranks of curates, vicars, and bishops while relegating women to parsons’ wives or ‘excellent women’ who decorate altars and arrange jumble sales. In Excellent Women, Jane and Prudence, and A Glass of Blessings, Pym centres novelistic representation on the parish, even as she critiques the demotion of women and queer men to second-class status with church-defined communities. On occasion, she appeals to ‘paganism’ to invigorate Christian observance. She also appeals to the contemporary discussion of reconstruction in the postwar years as a way of rethinking parishes and church communities.

Keywords:   parish, queer, anthropology, Barbara Pym, exclusion, gender, women, paganism, reconstruction

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