The final chapter of James W. Sire’s delightful Naming the Elephant (IVP 2004) surveys the overlapping of worldview analysis and academic disciplines. When he arrives at literature, which is, in many ways, his own first love, Sire observes: “In the past several decades, Christian literary scholarship has begun to become more self-consciously Christian, and while I have not noticed much use of worldview analysis in this scholarship, I am delighted to see it begin to proliferate” (156).
I thought of that when I received a recent copy of Laura Barge’s Exploring Worldviews in Literature: from William Wordsworth to Edward Albee (Abilene Christian University Press 2009).
Barge is one of the great “balcony figures” of Christian literary scholarship, someone who is not a well-known name outside of the discipline, but who has quietly mentored, encouraged, and supported young scholars for many years, including significant service in the Conference of Christianity and Literature. I personally have benefitted from many conversations with her over the years, especially when we taught at different institutions in the same town.
To some extent, Exploring Worldviews is the culmination of this lifetime of work, exhibiting a teacher’s tender heart at every turn, even as she is not averse to unleashing a salvo on the secularists’ intellectual inconsistencies (the first chapter in particular is a nifty overview of the place of Christian thought in literary studies). Each chapter traces the ways that Christian thinking has influenced literary studies on a variety of topics, ranging from Christ-figures to scapegoats to metaphysical understandings of the world to even atheism as an oddly profound place to find the immanent presence of God.
For those of you who still think that words mean things, or know someone whose graduate program is beating such belief out of him / her, Exploring Worldviews is a great tonic, and a welcome addition to the Christian intellectual tradition of applying the faith’s philosophical / epistemological framework to a variety of traditional academic disciplines.