Religion and the Muse

The Vexed Relation between Religion and Western Literature

By Ernest H. Rubinstein

Subjects: Literature
Paperback : 9780791471500, 278 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791471494, 278 pages, August 2007

Table of contents


1. Introduction

Part 1 Mutual Critiques

2. A Religious Critique of Literature: The Platonic Line
3. A Literary Critique of Religion: The Dantean Line

Part 2 Theoretic Concerns
4. Creation and Creativity
5. Beauty
6. Religious and Aesthetic Experience
7. Ethics

Part 3 Short Religio-Literary Readings of Six Perennial Themes
8. Love
9. Death
10. Evil
11. Suffering
12. Forgiveness
13. Saintliness

Looks at the relationship between religion and literature and how both have appealed to the Western spiritual sensibility.


Ever since Plato banished poets from his ideal state, Western religion and literature have been in tension. Through close readings of selected texts, Religion and the Muse explores the alternately complementary and conflictual ways that religion and literature have appealed to the Western spiritual sensibility. The book constructs a turbulent line of mutual critique, with joint origins in Plato and Dante. It finds theoretic harmony above the historic fray, through the ideas of creativity, beauty, experience, and ethics, in which both religious and literary texts participate. However, the dimensions of ambivalence in the relations between religion and literature are shown in both the concordant and discordant interpretations that the religious and literary texts make of six perennial themes: love, death, evil, suffering, forgiveness, and saintliness.

Ernest Rubinstein is Theological Librarian at Drew University and is Instructor in Humanities at New York University's School of Continuing Professional Studies and also at the New School University. He is the author of the SUNY Press book, An Episode of Jewish Romanticism: Franz Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption.


"…a vivid historical portrait of the sometimes congenial, sometimes tense but always fertile relationship between religion and literature … Rubinstein offers textual readings that underscore how each side engages questions of truth, morality, imagination, and the purpose of storytelling. " — Christianity and Literature

"Rubinstein's intellectual honesty, wide learning, and careful comparisons offer many eye-opening revelations into the relationship between literature and faith. This thought-provoking book is a virtual seminar on the great ideas underpinning our religious institutions. " — Robert Inchausti, author of Thomas Merton's American Prophecy