Some of the greatest works of Western literature have been inspired or influenced by powerful Christian themes. In this fresh evaluation of this relationship and its development over the last two millennia, Ambrose Mong studies a series of authors representative of the changing epochs. Augustine, Dante and Milton all wrote to serve the needs of the Christian community, and combine their religious themes with scholarly excellence. Meanwhile Shakespeare’s plays and Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, though not specific to the Christian faith, nevertheless betray the dominant Christian values and imagery of their time. Finally, in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Greene’s The Power and the Glory, Christianity is put under scrutiny, reflecting the increasing insecurity of its place in society.
Throughout, Mong also shows that the themes in these works are to a certain extent universal. Creation, sin, suffering and forgiveness are perennial human concerns, beyond the exclusive purview of Christianity, and these texts serve to challenge Christian assumptions as much as they are influenced by them. Always thorough and sensitive to the unique context of each writer, Mong’s analysis provides an important grounding in the way Western literature has shaped and been shaped by the religion of its day.
Preface and Acknowledgements
Chapter 1. Confessions – Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
Chapter 2. The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
Chapter 3. Hamlet and The Tempest – William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Chapter 4. Paradise Lost – John Milton (1608-1674)
Chapter 5. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Chapter 6. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
Chapter 7. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene (1904-1991)
Endorsements and Reviews
Deeply theological, Mong’s new book is also an excellent example of close readings of literary texts from Augustine to Graham Greene. If theology can be distrustful of literature it is also profoundly enlightened and enlivened by its art. This is a very fine introduction to the riches of the study of literature and theology. Revd Canon David Jasper, Emeritus Professor, University of Glasgow
In this engaging and accessible text, Ambrose Mong provides a sweeping review of Christianity in the western literary canon. Ranging from Dante to Coleridge to Graham Greene, he shows how literature has provided a unique medium for reflection on central themes of the Christian faith. Ian A. McFarland, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Theology, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
In this judicious survey, Ambrose Mong masterfully traces the themes of sin and grace through some of the major works of the Western Christian literary tradition. From Augustine and Dante to Dostoevsky and Graham Greene, the book offers an illuminating account of the way faith and imagination have grown up together in Western cultures. Ben Myers, Professor of Theology and Literature, Alphacrucis University College