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Evangelical Gothic

The English Novel and the Religious War on Virtue from Wesley to Dracula
Christopher Herbert

BUY Cloth · 292 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813943404 · $45.00 · Nov 2019
BUY Ebook · 292 pp. · ISBN 9780813943411 · $45.00 · Nov 2019

Evangelical Gothic explores the bitter antagonism that prevailed between two defining institutions of nineteenth-century Britain: Evangelicalism and the popular novel. Christopher Herbert begins by retrieving from near oblivion a rich anti-Evangelical polemical literature in which the great religious revival, often lauded in later scholarship as a "moral revolution," is depicted as an evil conspiracy centered on the attempted dismantling of the humanitarian moral culture of the nation. Examining foundational Evangelical writings by John Wesley and William Wilberforce alongside novels by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Bram Stoker, and others, Herbert contends that the realistic popular novel of the time was constitutionally alien to Evangelical ideology and even, to some extent, took its opposition to that ideology as its core function. This provocative argument illuminates the frequent linkage of Evangelicalism in nineteenth-century fiction with the characteristic imagery of the Gothic–with black magic, with themes of demonic visitation and vampirism, and with a distinctive mood of hysteria and panic.


"A strong work by a major critic, with an original, forceful, indeed bracingly polemical argument, supported by striking new readings of major canonical works as well as a range of obscure sources."

Ian Duncan, University of California, Berkeley, author of Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel: The Gothic, Scott, Dickens

Evangelical Gothic hammers away powerfully, continually... at two main points: first, that we should not credit late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Evangelical Protestantism, as many historians have done, for the moral tone and social improvements of the Victorian age, and, second, that Evangelical emphasis that only faith rather than good works brought salvation actually resulted in attacks on traditional morality.

Victorian Web

In this well-researched addition to the "Victorian Literature and Culture Series," Herbert presents a new take on the complicated, often-acknowledged, but underexamined connection between Evangelicalism and the Gothic novel.... Filling a gap in the literature, this book is for all who study or teach Victorian Gothic literature.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.


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