Literary Theory: An Introduction Themes

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Literature as a Replacement for Religion

Eagleton consistently argues against literary theories on the basis that they are trying substitute literature for religion. This criticism is first aimed at the English in the late nineteenth century. Recognizing that England's unity was in danger as a result of the weakened state of the Church of England, Matthew Arnold looked to literature as a substitute for the pacifying effect of religion. Later, F.R. Leavis and his follows present literature as a means of moral growth and enlightenment, in much the same way as religion traditionally would improve a person. For New American Criticism and phenomenological schools of criticism, the literary work became an object of contemplation, which would reveal reality to the reader much like the act of prayer as it was conventionally conceived. Even work as late as Northrop Frye's attempts to replace religion by using literature to provide...

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