Daily Archives: January 16, 2007

Narratives of secularization?

A few weeks ago, Amardeep Singh of the Valve put up an interesting post about “literary secularism” on that blog, to coincide with the appearance of his new book with the same name.  Here’s his announcement, on a stand-alone blog devoted to the book’s topic:


Apparently, Amardeep’s argument takes up recent social theories of secularization and secularity (running from Said through Asad and Viswanathan), modernity, and religion, and how those issues have affected literary works produced in the fractured or overlapping religious spaces of modernity: not just the Anglo-Judaic England of Daniel Deronda, but the novels of Joyce, Tagore, Pamuk, and Roth, as well.

I was intrigued by this description, because I came to this discussion from my own point of departure, which is really the transition from the early modern to the Enlightenment in England and Great Britain.  And, if you recall, this kind of secularizing narrative plays a prominent role in both McKeon and Parker’s works, which we read last term, and which take the story back to the English Civil War or even the Reformation.  And I sent Amardeep a post, and told him that I thought these were fairly standard historical arguments within our field.

Nonetheless, since I’m still mulling these issues over, I thought it would be interesting to see if others have been thinking about these issues in their own research, and what kinds of historical or literary examples they might choose to talk about, or what kinds of theoretical models they might use to illuminate them.



Online sources

I don’t quite understand what Carrie means when she talks about using Wikipedia.  I also nowadays rarely teach literature courses — though I do use literature in my Advanced Comp in the Natural Sciences and Tech courses. I regularly assign good science books, science classics, and sometimes relevant modern fiction.  So we spend about 1/3 of the term doing a research paper on how medical science really functions or is used in the subculture of medical treatments, and (the last 3 terms) we read Danielle Ofri’s _Singular Intimacies_ and John LeCarre’s _Constant Gardener_.

I do use online sources though. Perhaps I will be just re-inventing the wheel when I say this or not saying something sufficiently generally applicable.  But here it is:  at GMU we have vast databases of journals, newspapers, all sorts of sources.  I require that my students use these and I have exercises to get them to.  In general, the response is very positive. I’ve discovered many junior level students at GMU are unaware of the rich information at their disposal through their password. They are going to less rich or inferior or only partly relevant sites open to the public because they don’t know about these.

I’ll get as a thank you in the evaluation, one of the things they appreciated most was my showing them these databases.