Glimpses of her Father's glory : deification and divine light in Longfellow's Evangeline
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In this thesis I endeavor to discover and show the Unitarian and Patristic theological influences on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s long narrative poem Evangeline, with special focus on the poem’s theological teachings concerning deification and descriptions of the spiritual experience of shining with divine light. In chapter one, I explore the theological climate of early nineteenth-century New England, focusing on the Unitarian and Transcendental movements and Longfellow’s familiarity with both. In chapter two, I present an overview of the critical literature concerning the religious elements of Evangeline, beginning with reviews by Longfellow’s contemporaries and ending with recent scholarship that calls for a new investigation of Unitarian influences on Evangeline. In chapters three and four, I look back to those Church Fathers who articulated the doctrines of deification and divine light in the second through fourth centuries. Through looking at the presence of the Church Fathers in Longfellow’s writings, especially in the unexplored “Christian Fathers” manuscript lectures from the early 1830s, I show how the Patristic writers proved interesting and inspiring to Longfellow in the years leading up to the publication of Evangeline. Finally, in chapters five and six, I investigate in depth the religious elements of Evangeline, giving special attention to the keynote passages of 2.1 and 2.5, which include, respectively, theological teaching concerning deification and a description of the spiritual experience of shining with divine light. I conclude that though in 2.1 Longfellow articulates theological teachings that possess strong affinities with Unitarian doctrine, in 2.5 Longfellow concludes the poem with a characteristically Patristic vision of the deified heroine shining with divine light.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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