Love and Good Reasons

Postliberal Approaches to Christian Ethics and Literature

Love and Good Reasons

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: Published: January 2003

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Religious Studies

Insisting on the vital, productive relationship between ethics and the study of literature, Love and Good Reasons demonstrates ways of reading novels and stories from a Christian perspective. Fritz Oehlschlaeger argues for the study of literature as a training ground for the kinds of thinking on which moral reasoning depends. He challenges methods of doing ethics that attempt to specify universally binding principles or rules and argues for the need to bring literature back into conversation with the most basic questions about how we should live.

Love and Good Reasons combines postliberal narrative theology—especially Stanley Hauerwas’s Christian ethics and Alasdair MacIntyre’s idea of traditional inquiry—with recent scholarship in literature and ethics including the work of Martha Nussbaum, J. Hillis Miller, Wayne Booth, Jeffrey Stout, and Richard Rorty. Oehlschlaeger offers detailed readings of literature by five major authors—Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, Henry James, and Stephen Crane. He examines their works in light of biblical scripture and the grand narratives of Israel, Jesus, and the Church. Discussing the role of religion in contemporary higher education, Oehlschlaeger shares his own experiences of teaching literature from a religious perspective at a state university.


“Oehlschlaeger marshals an impressive range of scholarship in articulating his position. . . .” — Alan Blackstock , Rocky Mountain Review

"Love and Good Reasons should be required reading for Christian literary scholars, as it emphasizes the importance of ethical discussions. . . . Oehlschlaeger's book is an outstanding contribution to the field of Christianity and literature." — Gregor Thuswaldner, Christian Scholar's Review

"[O]ne of the most personally engaging and intellectually substantive books to emerge in recent years is Fritz Oehlschlaeger's Love and Good Reasons. . . . [A] welcome addition to the burgeoning area that is looking at the critical conversations between ethics and literature." — Jennifer Scott , Literature and Theology

"For the philosopher (or literary critic with a philosophical bent of mind) the book presents a fresh approach to the study of ethics by forging a reflexive relationship between moral philosophy and literary analysis. . . . Literary critics may find in the book not only insightful, well developed interpretations of some nineteenth-century texts but also innovative gestures toward the platform that Ryken felt it was propitious for Christian critics to establish back in 1987. . . . [T]he book fulfills its mission of melding literary analysis and moral reflection while remaining deeply embedded within the conceptual framework of the Christian interpretive community. Love and Good Reasons thus conveys a sense of solidarity for those within that community, helping its adherents-literary critic, philosopher, and those in between-to get their descriptions right from a Christian point of view."

— Samuel T. Joeckel , Christianity and Literature

"Oehschlaeger is at his best as he capably draws out the Christian dimension of works by H. James, Crane, and Austen." — Julie Meadows , Religious Studies Review

"The strengths of Love and Good Reasons are many: It is well-written (and thanks to Duke, well-edited). Its analyses of literary texts are careful, prudent (in Aquinas' sense) and illuminating. . . . Anyone interested in the fields of literature and ethics, literature and theology, theology of culture, or modern literary criticism would do well to spend time with this well-written, insightful, and provocative volume." — Scott Huelin , Cresset

"Fritz Oehlschlaeger shows that there really is something called a Christian knowledge that can make a difference for how one reads texts. Hopefully Love and Good Reasons will be read widely. I know of few accounts of reading that more enrich the discussion." — Stanley Hauerwas, author of The Hauerwas Reader

"Fritz Oehlschlaeger’s postliberal approach offers a potential way beyond the impasse of the bifurcation of conservative and liberal in the cultural wars of contemporary literary criticism without asking participants to relinquish their deeply held ethical convictions." — Brian D. Ingraffia, author of Postmodern Theory and Biblical Theology: Vanquishing God’s Shadow


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Fritz Oehlschlaeger is Professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He is coeditor of Toward the Making of Thoreau’s Modern Reputation, coauthor of Articulating the Elephant Man: Joseph Merrick and His Interpreters, and editor of Old Southwest Humor from the Saint Louis Reveille, 18441850.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Literary Criticism and Christian Ethics in Service to One Another 9

2. Toward a Christian Ethics of Reading, or, Why We Cannot Be Done with Bartleby 49

3. The "Best Blessing of Existence”: "Conscious Worth” in Emma 83

4. Honor, Faithfulness, and Community in Anthony Trollope’s The Warden and He Knew What Was Right 126

5. The "Very Temple of Authorised Love”: Henry James and The Portrait of a Lady 169

6. A Light That Has Been There from the Beginning: Stephen Crane and the Gospel of John 212

Afterword: Postliberal Christian Scholarship: An Engagement with Rorty and Stout 251

Notes 271

Bibliography 297

Index 307
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3064-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3053-0
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