Over the last decade, scholars have been reconsidering the way secularization organizes literary history. This essay suggests that recent advances have depended on a tacit distinction between the institutional and intellectual narratives once fused under the rubric of secularization. It also underlines the value of that distinction through a case study, examining the way dispensational fundamentalism has combined historicism with an anti-secular institutional agenda. Dispensationalism is now best known because of its prominence in the United States, where it spread the doctrine of a pre-tribulational Rapture. But the movement's origins lie in Britain, and its leaders were distinguished by a radically historical approach to the Bible. Edward Irving, for instance, discussed historical criticism with friends S.T. Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle, insisted on a contextual interpretation of Scripture, and saw the Gentile church as a provisional institution. Irving's fundamentalist historicism is hard to distinguish from the historicism that critics have identified as a secularizing legacy of Romantic literature. But the social consequences of his views diverged markedly from the consequences associated with historicism in, say, the Broad Church - suggesting that institutional and intellectual aspects of secularization aren't as thoroughly fused as literary historians sometimes assume.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Literature and Literary Theory