Lit as Savior

If one were asked to provide a single explanation for the growth of English studies in the later nineteenth century, one could do worse than reply: “the failure of religion.”

Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

On the next page Eagleton quotes an English professor named George Gordon (not Byron) saying:

England is sick, and . . . English literature must save it. The Churches (as I understand) having failed, and social remedies being slow, English literature has now a triple function: still, I suppose, to delight and instruct us, but also, and above all, to save our souls and heal the State.

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