Short Reading List

This introductory list covers the main concerns and trends of the past few decades, including the “religious turn” in literary theory, post-secular theory, and religion as a modality of reading and critical practice. It includes both primary texts and critical surveys.

in chronological order

1. T.S. Eliot. “Religion and Literature.” Selected Essays, 1917-1932. London: Faber & Faber, 1951. 388-401.

2. Jacques Derrida. “How to Avoid Speaking: Denials.” Languages of the Unsayable: The Play of Negativity in Literature and Literary Theory. Ed. Sanford Budick and Wolfgang Iser. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987. 3-70.

3. Geoffrey Hartman. “Text and Spirit” [1999]. The Geoffrey Hartman Reader. New York: Fordham University Press, 2004. 191-203.

4. Michael W. Kaufmann. “The Religious, the Secular, and Literary Studies: Rethinking the Secularization Narrative in Histories of the Profession.” New Literary History, 38:4 (Autumn 2007): 607-628.

5. “Special Issue: What is Religion and Literature?” Religion and Literature 41:2 (Summer) 2009.

6. Andrew Haas, David Jasper, and Elisabeth Jay, eds. The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology. Oxford University Press, 2009.

7. Jo Carruthers, Mark Knight, and Andrew Tate, eds. Literature and the Bible, a Reader. New York: Routledge, 2013. 

8. Mark Knight, ed. The Routledge Companion to Literature and Religion. New York: Routledge, 2016.

9. Daniel Boscaljon and Alan Levinovitz, eds. Teaching Religion and Literature. New York: Routledge, 2018.

10. Eric Ziolkowski. Religion and Literature: History and Method. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

Further Reading

in chronological order

1. Luce Irigaray. “La Mystérique.” Speculum of the Other Woman. Trans. Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974. 191-202. 

2. Giles Gunn. The Interpretation of Otherness: Literature, Religion, and the American Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. 

3. Frank Kermode. The Genesis of Secrecy: on the Interpretation of Narrative. Cambridge,MA: Harvard UP, 1980.

4. Robert Alter. The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York: Basic Books, 1981.

5. Edward Said. “Conclusion: Religious Criticism.” The World, the Text, and the Critic. Harvard UP, 1983. 290-292.

6. Geoffrey Hartman and Sanford Budick, eds. Midrash and Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986.

7. David Lyle Jeffrey. People of the Book: Christian Identity and Literary Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Press, 1996.

8. Slavoj Žižek. The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? New York: Verso, 2000.

9. Alain Badiou. Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. Trans. Ray Brassier. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.   

10. Nicholas Boyle. “A Catholic Approach to Literature.” Sacred and Secular Scriptures. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2004.  

11. Michel Foucault. The Hermeneutics of the Subject. Ed. Frédéric Gros. Trans. Graham Burchell. New York: Picador, 2005.

12. Charles Taylor. A Secular Age. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007.

or the concise “What Does Secularism Mean?” Dilemmas and Connections: Selected Essays. Harvard UP, 2011. 303-325. 

13. “Special Feature: A Seminar on Christian Scholarship and the Religious Turn in Literary Studies.” Christianity and Literature. 58.2 (2009). 

14. “Mellon Special Issue: Literature and Religion for the Humanities.” Religion and Literature. 46:2-3 (2014).

15. Susan Felch, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Religion. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

16. Saba Mahmood, “Secularity, History, Literature.” Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016.

17. Susannah Brietz Monta. “Religion, Historicism, and Faithful Reading.” Theology and Literature After Postmodernity. Ed. Zoe Lehmann Imfeld, Peter Hampton, and Alison Milbank. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 15-33.

18. Chloë Starr. Chinese Theology: Text and Context. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016. 

This second list continues with the same trends as the first, but it includes samples of the specific and sometimes divergent concerns that have engaged different types of scholars in the field of literature and religion.

The short reading list was compiled by Sharon Kim in consultation with members of the American Religion and Literature Society, the Conference on Christianity and Literature, Religion and Literature, and Literature and Theology. Special thanks to David Jasper, past Senior Editor of Literature and Theology, founder of the Conference on Literature and Religion (UK); Ray Horton, past president of the American Religion and Literature Society; Romana Huk, Chief Editor of Religion and Literature; and Kevin Hart, editorial board member of Religion and Literature, Literature and Theology, and Christianity and Literature.