University of Leicester
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Grace-ful reading : theology and narrative in the works of John Bunyan

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:37 authored by Michael T. Davies
This thesis challenges the literary tradition of reading Bunyan's narrative works separately from the theology that fundamentally informs them. It argues that a full understanding of texts like Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners and The Pilgrim's Progress is possible only through a more accurate appraisal of Bunyan's religious doctrines, and a critical practice that pays due attention to Bunyan's Nonconformist poetics.;'Grace-ful Reading' regards Bunyan's theology in terms very different from those of the abhorrent Calvinism that studies often emphasise. Bunyan's narratives are understood here as propounding a doctrine of Law and grace that is essentially accommodating and comforting. Moreover, in terms of the experimental nature of Bunyan's theology, this thesis aims to demonstrate that his narrative works are constructed according to a specific purpose - to teach the reader about reading the self and the Word in terms of a faith that is experimental rather than rational.;Consequently, 'Grace-ful Reading' views Bunyan's narrative works as attempting to elicit a specifically doctrinal reader-response, one that foregrounds spiritual understanding over anything knowable and reasonable. Indeed, Bunyan's texts teach about grace, faith, and spiritual perception by frustrating the reader's rational expectations of them as narratives. Hence, Bunyan's textual procedures are considered as essentially anti-narrative, his spiritual autobiography and spiritualised allegories effectively curtailing any 'historical' interest in them as moralistic or imaginative fables.;'Grace-ful Reading' offers a more detailed and contextually situated understanding of Bunyan's doctrines while exploring the textuality of his writings through a contemporary, even postmodernist narrative discourse.;This study is organised into six chapters. Chapter 1 specifically addresses Bunyan's theology while Grace Abounding and The Pilgrim's Progress receive extensive analysis in chapters 2 and 3, 4 and 5 respectively. Chapter 6 assesses The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, The Holy War, and The Pilgrim's Progress, Part II as sequels to Bunyan's most popular allegory.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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