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Research Areas in English: Religion, Secularism, Postsecular Studies: Home

A guide to the study of Religion, Secularism, Postsecular Studies at the University of Iowa English Department.

Blue and yellow logo, reading Postsecular Studies and the Rise of the English Novel, 1719-1897, National Endowment for the Humanities

How to Use This Guide

This guide was developed with Dr. Lori Branch at the University of Iowa, to assist those in the field of English to understand and interact with Religion, Secularism, and Postsecularism ideas. The resources collected here are but a sampling of the works available. Many of the authors have numerous other works important to the study. The intent of the guide is to be a strong start to researching the fundamental ideas of postsecular studies. Please note that most descriptions come from the works themselves, with some notes proceeding on the value of individual essays within collections where pertinent to Iowa researchers and instructors.

Contact Information for This Guide

Created by Angela Weiss, Librarian

Weiss Headshot

I am a graduate student in the School of Library and Information Science at Iowa with interests in Religion, Secularism, Postsecularism, and Literature.  


Maintained and hosted by the English and American Literature Librarian, University of Iowa Libraries.

Religion, Secularism, and Postsecularism-

Why and how do Religion and Secularism impact English Studies today? 

To understand the writings of the past and the progression of ideologies as varied as colonialism, gender, racial, and class, we must understand the religious and secular ideologies underpinning these ideas. Readings and histories that interrogate the shifts between singular belief systems into the splintered groupings of ideas that lead to the foundations of secular belief have shed new light on what and how we see religion in the literature of the modern centuries. 

"The varied scholarship that comprises postsecular studies critically investigates the categories of the religious and the secular with an eye toward emergent possible versions of postsecularity. Such inquiries generally share the central insight that the secular/religious binary as we know it emerges in modernity as part of an ideology of secularism which grounds the rise of the nation state and which merits interrogation alongside the gender, racial, and class ideologies which are imbricated with it. Courses at Iowa in postsecularism on the rise of the novel take up these postsecular insights in exploring the gloriously strange literature of the period that witnessed the dawn of modernity in Great Britain, the long eighteenth century, attending to the complex and peculiar manifestations of religion and secularism in its pages, particularly in the rise of the English novel. Readings are comprised of three strands: major fiction and poetry, from the Restoration through Romanticism; eighteenth-century studies scholarship on these texts; and postsecular theory from a variety of disciplines. Primary texts will likely include: John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress; Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World; selections from Samuel Pepys’s Diary; Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; Richard Graves, The Spiritual Quixote; Edward Young’s Night-Thoughts; English and Francophone erotica; Samuel Richardson, Clarissa; Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy; Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno; Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield; Matthew Lewis, The Monk; William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads." - From ENGL:6300:0001 RESTORATION AND 18TH CENTURY LITERATURE POSTSECULAR STUDIES AND THE LONG 18TH CENTURY


Photo of Lori Branch, woman wearing black shirt, with short blonde hair and blue eyes     Lori Peterson Branch Associate Professor, Department of English, The University of Iowa Series Editor, "Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies," Ohio State University Press
Board of Directors, International Orthodox Theological Association NEH 2019 Summer Seminar Co-Director, with Mark Knight, “Religion, Secularism, & the Novel”: