Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/13/2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Lori Branch


This dissertation posits a crucial and profound relationship between the Victorian crisis of faith and the simultaneous emergence of fantasy and science fiction novels. Grouping these genres under the term "supernatural novel," the following chapters examine this relationship through close readings of novels published between 1818 and 1897, showing the variety of ways in which this new type of literature spoke to a Victorian sense of being caught between a staunchly traditional religious faith and a newly accessible agnostic materialism. At times, for example, these texts suggest ways to negotiate a compromise between these two viewpoints, and at others they voice a longing for the experience of religious belief in previous centuries. Charles Taylor's A Secular Age highly informs the readings of these novels in its articulation of the complexity of the Victorian religious crisis, emphasizing changes in the character and experience of belief, even for the majority of Victorians who remained devout Christians. Taylor's seminal work joins with histories of religion, biographies, reviews and articles from Victorian periodicals, and theories of genre to discuss how the supernatural novel can uniquely address the anxieties and frustrations inherent to the crisis of faith. Through combining the literary form of the novel, strongly associated with realism and secular ways of knowing, with fantastic and imaginary content, this expanding genre reflected the "cross pressures" of faith and rationalism experienced by a Victorian readership.


belief, Christianity, fantasy, religion, science fiction, Victorian


vi, 237 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 224-237).


Copyright © 2015 Elizabeth Mildred Sanders

Available for download on Saturday, July 13, 2019