Inside the New Directions in Religion and Literature series

By | June 26, 2024

Guest post by Emma Mason

It is nearly twenty-five years since Mark and I met at the inaugural conference of the British Association of Victorian Studies in 2000. Both of us had recently completed our PhDs and, working as we did on religion and literature, experienced literary studies as not always hospitable towards Christian scholarship. I remember meeting Mark in the queue for lunch following his paper on the Salvation Army, one that I had loved hearing at a conference in which so few scholars addressed religious topics. We immediately bonded over the lack of attention to religion in Victorian Studies and literary studies more broadly, and within a few months were working together on our first co-authored book, Nineteenth Century Religion and Literature, published in 2006. But we also wanted to find a way to showcase the wonderful work of others writing about religion and literature and were overjoyed to find a home for a new monograph series—New Directions in Religion and Literature—with Bloomsbury.

Originally pitched as short interventions into the field but now joined by longer, more sustained monographs, the series has nearly forty titles, with more coming on board. Mark and I knew that religion and literature was a much livelier field in the US and some parts of Europe in the late 1990s, but we have been delighted to see the field flourish globally over the last twenty-five years. Part of what has driven the commitment to our series is our belief in the value of many kinds of writing, views, and subjects. It is a discredit to the intellectual work we do when scholars use print to attack each other and their methodologies, traditions, and choices in unkind and caustic terms. From the right and left alike echo critical voices that broadcast absolutes of opinion and verdict that directly exclude the thoughts and feelings of others. We have always found the field of religion and literature a broad church in which all are welcomed into informed conversation and exchange that encourages others into discernment and further study. All our authors have worked thoughtfully and attentively to present scholarly and balanced readings of literary, historical, philosophical, and cultural texts and ideas that they care about and want to share with others. While we are most often sent proposals that explore the Christian literary tradition, we have been excited to publish books on literature and Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, and welcome authors working on all forms and varieties of religion and literature.

This is no more apparent than in some of our recent and forthcoming titles by Elizabeth Ludlow, Julianne Sandberg, Chad Schrock, Ryan Kemp/Jordan Rodgers, Matthew Smalley, and Denae Dyck. Ludlow’s brilliant reading of embodied prayer in nineteenth-century women’s writing, Sandberg’s deft understanding of the Eucharist as a paradigm for the embodied self, Schrock’s sharp revelation of the significance of the Bible for Chaucer’s innovations, Kemp and Rodger’s lively philosophical account of Marilynne Robinson’s Christian vision, Smalley’s fantastic recovery of literary preaching in American authors from Emerson to Morrison, and Dyck’s captivating recovery of wisdom literature in Victorian writing—these studies join our other titles in animating the field of religion and literature with distinction and verve.

See all books in the New Directions in Religion and Literature series here.

About the series editors:

Emma Mason is Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. She specialises in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Christian poetry.

Mark Knight is Professor of Literature, Religion, and Victorian Studies and Head of the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster, UK. He specialises in Victorian literature and religion is the General Editor of the journal Literature and Theology.

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