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    Lifelike and afterlife-like: spiritual bodies and secular identities in the Victorian protestant imagination

    Moriarty, Jennifer Lynn (2023) Lifelike and afterlife-like: spiritual bodies and secular identities in the Victorian protestant imagination. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    ‘How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?’ Posed in 1 Corinthians, these questions shaped the nineteenth-century British cultural imagination in ways and to an extent that have been hitherto unrecognized. This thesis explores how and why mid-to-late-Victorian Protestants were challenged and reassured by the Bible’s paradoxical answer: with a ‘spiritual body’. It argues, against prevailing scholarship, that many did not abandon their beliefs or turn to Spiritualism in response to sweeping progress that emphasized the material conditions of life; rather, they reformed their eschatologies to spiritualize those conditions and incorporate them into visions of the soul’s embodied afterlife. Though neglected today, these reinterpretations of the spiritual body as a quasi-material being illuminate the transition to a modern understanding of personal identity. They also provide vivid case studies of how Liberal Protestant faith in immortality not only influenced but was influenced by Victorian Britain’s ostensibly secular culture. Analysis of a wide variety of underexamined texts reveals believers who combined speculation about resurrection and the life in heaven with observations of life on earth to realize individuals’ essential embodiment in both realms. Shifting away from a traditional body-soul dualism, they used the dual-faceted spiritual body to test new, integrated models of the human being as these were emerging in contemporaneous discourses of literary realism, evolutionary theory, physiological psychology, and mechanical technology. This postsecular recovery of mid-nineteenth-century Protestant innovation contributes to our awareness of how diversely the Victorians used eschatological belief to navigate life-altering change.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 11 May 2023 14:35
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 16:10


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