Title: Rituals of Spontaneity: Sentiment and Secularism from Free Prayer to Wordsworth
Book Condition: New
Publisher: Baylor University Press September 2006
1932792112 / 9781932792119
Seller ID: 47487
While pinpointing the origin of modernity's love affair with spontaneity is certainly a complex, if not impossible, endeavor, Lori Branch examines the literatures of the eighteenth century in order to distill modernity's shift from a belief in ritual to an ultimately moral and aesthetic valuing of spontaneity. Acting as an archaeologist of history, literature, and religion, she highlights the secularizing trajectory inherent in the ideology of spontaneity and the sense of anxious paralysis it bred. The works of John Bunyan, Branch points out, provide both a theology of spontaneity and an example of the pervasive anxiety spontaneous prayer generates in the adherent's soul. The excruciating cost of this belief, she contends, is 'a theology that has come to understand itself almost wholly in evidentiary, economic terms.' Secular philosophers first derided then refashioned the spirituality of these religious enthusiasts as their own brand of 'true enthusiasm,' to the extent that leaders of the Enlightenment sought to forge a union of rationalized faith with this new philosophy of feeling, alternately abandoning and reviving its explicitly religious overtones. In particular, the third Earl of Shaftesbury endeavored to articulate a universal ethics based on this spontaneous moral sense, which resulted personally in a violent splitting of the self. Branch devotes subsequent chapters to spontaneity's effect on the quasi-religious literature of Christopher Smart, Oliver Goldsmith, and William Wordsworth, fashioning a nuanced critique of the secularization of goodness. 348 pp.