Publication Date

2012-03-19

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2012-03-19

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2012-02-03

First Committee Member

John Paul Russo

Second Committee Member

Frank Stringfellow

Third Committee Member

Robert Casillo

Fourth Committee Member

John T. Kirby

Abstract

My dissertation will examine George Santayana’s view of religion and apply it to Henry James and William James. Living in an age of transition that was keenly aware of the differences between how the United States and Europe related to their common religious inheritance, each man developed different, yet related, approaches to understanding the role religion might play in a new emerging social reality. Although Santayana hardly used the term ‘type,’ the concept pervades his thinking. In Realms of Being the word realm is close to type in meaning, as is order in Dominations and Powers. In Three Philosophical Poets, Santayana argues that Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe each represent an ideal high point in Western culture and concludes that a poetic vision that combines all three is needed, since none of them is expendable in developing a complete view of the nature of existence. The Dante-type is the most straightforward, concerned as Dante was with the moral dimension of existence. The Lucretius-type may be roughly characterized as a materialist and a naturalist, and the Goethe-type as a kind of romantic pagan. Santayana, who identified strongly with Dante, considered William James an imperfect naturalist and a romantic. Consequently, my dissertation will attempt to determine the nature of James’s naturalism and how he relates to the other types. He is the opposite of Santayana in as much as he attempts to examine religious experience denuded of the vestments of tradition and belief. Henry James’s position is subtle and difficult to characterize, especially since it is mostly found in his fiction, which is most often devoted to an exploration of the ambiguities of consciousness. His characters often seem to be, as Santayana argues of Goethe’s Faust, caught up in the immediacy of experience. His goal, however, may be to overcome this perspective and point the way to a moral, Dante-type approach to religion. Santayana is the central figure in this dissertation, for having the most ambitious, comprehensive vision, one that will be tested, criticized, or amended, as necessitated.

Keywords

George Santayana; William James; Henry James; Philosophy and Religion; Puritanism; Literature

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