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date: 24 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Religious writings formed the largest category of publications in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and were read on a vast scale. This essay focuses on the relationships between these writings and the early novel, discussing how religious ideas and controversies were represented in fiction, and the extent to which some novels were regarded by their authors—and valued by readers—as ‘religious’ works. The literary form of early novels drew upon conventions made familiar in popular religious writings, such as the use of dialogue and allegory. John Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding, and, even more, his extraordinarily successful fictional representation of the Christian life, The Pilgrim’s Progress were among the most significant influences on the narrative shape and concerns of early novels.

Keywords: religion, sermons, allegory, autobiography, conversion, Providence, Henry Fielding, John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson

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