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Fictionalizing Adam and Eve in Nineteenth-Century British Literature

thesis
posted on 2024-02-02, 20:54 authored by Meagan K. Simpson

Fictionalizing Adam and Eve charts a moment in nineteenth-century Britain when theology and science enter into an epistemic tussle over the authority to interpret the referential status of Adam and Eve. It argues that theology loses its stronghold on interpreting Adam and Eve as the divinely created ancestors of the human race whose disobedience of God plunged all of their progeny into sin and necessitated their redemption through Christ’s sacrifice. In its place, scientific empiricism offers an alternative interpretation, one which holds any referent, including Adam and Eve, can either be literally real and therefore incapable of conferring such grand cosmological meaning or else purely mythical and therefore only valuable within the closed system of its text. This dissertation argues that fiction enters into this contested territory to provide a third way of conceiving of the relationship between the reality of a referent and its ability to impart meaning. Drawing on the work of cognitive linguists concerning reality status modality, this project contends that fiction turns away from adjudicating what is or what is not in favor of speculating on what could, would, should, might, may (have) be(en). Against theological orthodoxy and scientific consensus, fiction of this period offers a more measured but no less urgent argument for the affordances of Adam and Eve. By annexing Adam and Eve into fictional texts, nineteenth-century writers suggest that referentiality need not be conceptualized as an either/or scheme, but rather allows for more complicated configuration in which any given referent can be nonliteral and still deeply meaningful.

History

Date Modified

2019-05-24

Defense Date

2019-03-29

CIP Code

  • PHD-ENGL

Research Director(s)

Sara L. Maurer

Committee Members

Margaret Anne Doody David Wayne Thomas

Degree

  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Language

  • English

Alternate Identifier

1102360677

Library Record

005102593

OCLC Number

1102360677

Program Name

  • English (ENGL)

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