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Visual theologies in Graham Greene's 'Dark and Magical Heart of Faith'

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
Publication date2018
Number of pages237
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This study explores the ways in which Catholic images, statues, and icons haunt the fictional, spiritual wasteland of Greene’s writing, nicknamed ‘Greeneland’. It is also prompted by a real space, discovered by Greene during his 1938 trip to Mexico, which was subsequently fictionalised in The Power and the Glory (1940), and which he described as ‘a short cut to the dark and magical heart of faith’.
This is a space in which modern notions of disenchantment meets a primal need for magic – or the miraculous – and where the presentation of concepts like ‘salvation’ are defamiliarised as savage processes that test humanity. This brutal nature of faith is reflected in the pagan aesthetics of Greeneland which focus on the macabre and heretical images of Christianity and how for Greene, these images magically transform the darkness of doubt into desperate redemption. As an amateur spy, playwright and screen writer Greene’s visual imagination was a strength to his work and this study will focus on how the visuality of Greene’s faith remains in dialogue with debates concerning the ‘liquidation of religion’ in society, as presented by Graham Ward. The thesis places Greene’s work in dialogue with other Catholic novelists and filmmakers, particularly in relation to their own visual-religious aesthetics, such as Martin Scorsese and David Lodge. Key figures in Greene studies – including Leopoldo Duran and Michael Brennan– have explored his complex spiritual journey. However, this thesis will argue that his visual imagination needs considerable reappraisal, particularly in relation to contemporary theological debates regarding idolatry, iconicity and re-enchantment. It will also connect these debates with the works of figures like Jenny Franchot and Grace Davie, who are interested in the cultural importance of religion in contemporary society.