The transformation of God: Religion and culture in the post-Darwinian novel
Roberts, Bettie Weaver
Patten, Robert L.
Doctor of Philosophy
The transformation of God as it develops in late-Victorian British literature comprehends a simultaneous double movement: first, it seeks to demonstrate and to discredit the transcendence of God assumed by pre-romantics, a transcendence that Hillis Miller has argued reaches its culmination in the Victorian period; simultaneously, it embraces an immanence which, though dependent on the dynamics of the romantic movement, moves significantly beyond romantic limitations. This immanence, a force deep within nature and within individual and collective humanity, manifests itself in post-Darwinian dynamics such as Darwin's "struggle for life" and Nietzsche's "will to power." Because these post-Darwinian energies share with the romantics a structure analogous to the idealist Absolute, and because their biological base enables them, unlike the romantics, reliably to unite the physical, emotional, and volitional with the epistemological, they successfully rejoin in a quasi-monistic whole what Descartes had sundered. George Eliot models her rebellion against the father on her prior rejection of the Christian God she initially reveres but eventually finds inadequate, and this rebellion ramifies from her personal writings to inform the text of Middlemarch. Thomas Hardy, who seeks in both religion and the secular society a post-Darwinian alternative to the transcendence of supernaturalism on the one hand and the abyss of atheism on the other, details his objections to what Angel Clare calls an "untenable redemptive theolatry" throughout Tess of the d'Urber-villes. For Henry James, religion correlates psychologically to the intertial drag of his father's influence; yet the Jamesian urge to "live all you can" impels his novelistic career and contributes to the success of Maggie Verver, who in The Golden Bowl uses post-Darwinian dynamics to overcome textual transcendences and reunite, through both passion and perception, the components splintered by Cartesian rationalism.
English literature; American literature; Philosophy of Religion