• E.M. Forster, the Clapham Sect, and the Secular Public Sphere

    Author(s):
    Dustin Friedman (see profile)
    Date:
    2015
    Group(s):
    Late-Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century English Literature, LLC Victorian and Early-20th-Century English, TM Literary and Cultural Theory
    Subject(s):
    Modernism, Secularization, Religion, British modernism
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/chzz-sb97
    Abstract:
    Critics have characterized E.M. Forster as an advocate of what Jürgen Habermas calls the “secular public sphere.” Yet Forster was critical of liberalism’s insistence that religious experiences should be translated into the language of secular rationality. The discussion of the Clapham Sect in “Henry Thornton” (1939) suggests that eighteenth-century evangelical Anglicanism set in motion a historical trajectory that led secular modern intellectuals to retreat into their own privacy, a position exemplified by Forster’s contemporaries in the Bloomsbury Group. One can thus look back to A Passage to India (1924) and understand how the novel’s spiritual themes articulate a politically relevant alternative both to Clapham’s rationalized religiosity and Bloomsbury’s secular insularity. Forster depicts the Hindu religious festival of Gokul Ashtami as promising an alternative form of social cohesion that resists translation into secular, rational language.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    1 week ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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