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BOOK REVIEWS 441 Christianity and Literature: Philosophical Foundations and Critical Practice. By David LyleJeffreyand Gregory Maillet. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011. ISBN978-0-8308-2817-3. Pp. 336. $24.00. Literary scholars both aspiring and accomplished will look with gratitude to this straightforward and learned presentation of the Christian humanist tradition in the West as itbears upon the study of English literature. Aspart of the InterVarsity Press Christian Worldview Integration Series, it is clearlymeant primarily to benefit Christian students and scholars who refuse to dismiss their religious convictions from their academic work. However,the book deserves a wider audience than this. Scholars of all persuasions will find here both a worthy statement of a historically central tradition and a challenge to current assumptions from authors conversant in recent theoretical debates. In a number of ways, Christianity and Literature will remind readers of C. S.Lewis' work, particularly TheAbolitionofMan. The volume by Jeffrey and Maillet represents the philosophically turned reflections of serious Christian scholars of English literature on what they take to be the baneful direction of contemporary education. Indeed, readers of TheAbolitionofMan may remember that Lewis'first extended example has to do with Coleridge's remarks on a waterfall and whether the sublime is a mere feeling confined to human consciousness. And yet the current volume is more capacious than Lewis' essay, providing a kind of snapshot history of English (and American) literature in its "practical" chapters. In this sense, the book more nearly resembles Lewis' English Literature in the Sixteenth Century. David LyleJeffreyhas certainly reached the point in his career where he has earned the right to author a book of magisterial sweep. Readers of this journal will recognize Jeffreyas the recipient of the Conference on Christianity and Literature's Lifetime Achievement Award. I was put in mind of his award-winning People of theBook: Christian Identityand LiteraryCulture(1996), in which he treats some of the same issues for a more advanced target audience. Here, in concert with Gregory Maillet, his younger Roman Catholic co-author, he cultivates a style that is confident and clear without being contentious. The pairing of Protestant with Catholic has an intentional ecumenical message, as the Authors' Preface declares: the book is meant to present a kind of "mere" Christian consensus on foundational matters. Part one of the three-part organizational scheme of the book is thus unsurprisingly titled "Christian Foundations:' Jeffrey and Maillet insist that the type of theory appropriate and indeed necessary for Christians is a correspondence theory of truth with its built-in metaphysical realism. When we say something is true, we mean and must mean that our statement corresponds with a state of affairs external to our thought. With its strong insistence on a creator-savior God who stands over against the world, the Bible assumes that human truth and truthfulness are measured by the degree to which they reflect the divine originator and sustainer. The authors illustrate the philosophical point with Paul'ssuccinct assessment of the 442 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE importance of Jesus' resurrection: If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain (I Cor. 15:14). Closely related to the point about truth is one concerning beauty. Beauty, insist the authors, must from a Christian point of view be considered an objective quality rather than a subjective judgment, as Kant, for example, argued. Beauty is a feature of God also found in God's creation, and it is one we may either discover or fail to discern. It is what makes all the arts serious business, so to speak. Beauty bereft of ontological status lapses into a mere psychological category. If beauty is not real in the metaphysical sense, then to call something beautiful is to do no more than express an emotion. For Jeffreyand Maillet, asserting the objective reality of truth and beauty is so theologically important, that the other two types of truth theory-coherence and pragmatic-must be rejected despite their powerful modern proponents. In the remainder of part one, the authors describe and carry out a Christian philosophy of literature (a theological aesthetics) rooted in theistic realism. This is not so esoteric an exercise as it may sound. The authors make...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 441-444
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-04
Open Access
No
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