Abstract and Keywords
This essay begins by contextualizing atheism in the larger history of literature, locating the first sustained uses of unbelief as a literary theme in the Western world during the first half of the nineteenth century. Schweizer then goes on to clarify fundamental terminological issues such as the distinction between atheism, Satanism, and misotheism, as well as that between implicit and explicit literary atheism. Next follow four case studies of literary atheism, as Schweizer outlines the functions and characteristics of atheism in Büchner’s Danton’s Death, Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, Camus’s The Plague, and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. Schweizer concludes that the role of atheism in literature has morphed from being a touchstone for radical and existential moral questions in earlier fiction to serving as a vehicle for metafictional humour and ironic self-inspection in contemporary writing.
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