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Faith and Fiction

A Theological Critique of the Narrative Strategies of Hugh MacLennan and Morley Callaghan

By Barbara Pell
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature, Religion
Series Editions SR Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889203075, 150 pages, November 1998


Is it possible to write an artistically respectable and theoretically convincing religious novel in a non-religious age?

Up to now, there has been no substantial application of theological criticism to the works of Hugh MacLennan and Morley Callaghan, the two most important Canadian novelists before 1960. Yet both were religious writers during the period when Canada entered the modern, non-religious era, and both greatly influenced the development of our literature. MacLennan’s journey from Calvinism to Christian existentialism is documented in his essays and seven novels, most fully in The Watch that Ends the Night.

Callaghan’s fourteen novels are marked by tensions in his theology of Catholic humanism, with his later novels defining his theological themes in increasingly secular terms. This tension between narrative and metanarrative has produced both the artistic strengths and the moral ambiguities that characterize his work.

Faith and Fiction: A Theological Critique of the Narrative Strategies of Hugh MacLennan and Morley Callaghan is a significant contribution to the relatively new field studying the relation between religion and literature in Canada.


``Pell's position enables her to recognize the unifying assumptions that can be traced through MacLennan's and Callaghan's main works. This leads to a number of useful and solid insights. I like to see Faith and Fiction as a pioneering step away from the postmodernist cul-de-sac toward a more open (and to that extent more traditional) literary-critical approach. Her commentary is impressively solid. ...I hope others will follow her example and carry her achievement further. ''

- W.J. Keith, Canadian Book Review Annual