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Title: A proper secularism : beyond ideology in Bulgakov, Trilling, Updike and Pynchon
Author: Howard, Augustus Pritchard
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 5377
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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My dissertation, "A Proper Secularism: Beyond Ideology in Bulgakov, Trilling, Updike and Pynchon," explores the ways in which the literary imagination pushes beyond ideology, and points towards notions of the eternal, by attunement and fidelity to the material. In the terms of Rowan Williams, "if a proper secularism requires faith; if it is to guarantee freedom, this is because a civilized politics must be a politics attuned to the real capacities and dignities of the person." It is the argument of this thesis that the literary imagination, when operating with integrity, mirrors this understanding of the properly secular. A proper secularism is thus defined as both an insistence upon accurate portrayal of the material world in all its variety and difference and, concomitantly, as an honest "holding together" of that difference that can provide an approach to the eternal. It is my contention that four novels, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov; The Middle of the Journey by Lionel Trilling; Roger's Version by John Updike; and Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, each embody and rely upon this understanding of the secular. In so doing, each book pushes beyond the ideology of a century of war and violent imposition. Bulgakov's novel was composed in the heart of Communist Russia; Trilling's novel deals with the lives and ideological biases of Communist sympathizers in America; Pynchon writes from America but about London as it copes with the unitary, impositional ideology of death as signified by the German V-2 rocket in World War II; John Updike, though not overtly concerned with the Cold War in Roger's Version, nonetheless explores the machinery of war in the computer and its language. It is the argument of this dissertation that these novels constitute an answer to the violence of impositional ideology, a counter-arc to the path of the rocket, gravity's impositional rainbow.
Supervisor: Williams, Rowan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Secularism ; Ideology ; Bulgakov ; Trilling ; Updike ; Pynchon