Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The anagogic qualities of John Gardner's “Grendel”
by Swinson, Cullen E., M.A.L.S., Georgetown University, 2009, 93; 1462300
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis explores the anagogic qualities of John Gardner's novel Grendel utilizing various Christian theological approaches as well as Gardner's own theories concerning the nature of literature through his concept of "moral fiction." The thesis examines key problems at the center of contemporary studies on the relationship between religion and literature that are implicit in Grendel and more explicitly expressed in Gardner's writings on literary theory. Each issue concerns the existential dilemma faced by post-modern western Christian writers: the difficulty in establishing a viable Christian point of view supported by a sustainable poetics within a secular culture still influenced by the legacy of atheistic existentialism; the perceived inadequacy of exploring religious experience as a correlative to the literary creative process; the paradox of the writer's role as both creature and creator in an existential universe; and the essentially mystical nature of the process, meaning, and purpose of literary art intrinsic to some religious views of literature and its incompatibility with atheistic existentialism. The thesis argues that Grendel is Gardner's answer to the contemporary Christian writer's existential dilemma. Gardner's novel represents a synthesis of modern/post-modern existentialism and traditional Christian beliefs that tropes the atheistic existentialist view that "existence precedes essence." The Christian realist and existentialist theology/philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich provide the metaphysical framework for this argument, along with various approaches to the relationship between religion and literature provided by Dorothy Sayers, Stanley Romaine Hopper, Chad Walsh, Nathan Scott, Giles Gunn, and others. Together, these approaches form the tentative basis of a sustainable Christian poetics that validates Gardner's theory of moral fiction—exemplified by Grendel—thus establishing a religious approach to literature that supports a Christian world view able to meet the needs of the post-modern writer in his struggle with the seeming limits imposed by the continued influence of atheistic existentialism inherent in much of contemporary literary theory.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: O'Brien, William J.
School: Georgetown University
Department: Liberal Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 47/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Theology, American literature
Publication Number: 1462300
ISBN: 978-1-109-07077-4
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