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Scholarship

 

Spirit Matters

 
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Spirit Matters explores the heterodox and unorthodox religions and spiritualities that arose in Victorian Britain as a result of the faltering of Christian faith in the face of modernity, the rise of the truth-telling authority of science, and the first full exposure of the West to non-Christian religions. J. Jeffrey Franklin investigates the diversity of ways that spiritual seekers struggled to maintain faith or to create new faiths by reconciling elements of the Judeo-Christian heritage with Spiritualism, Buddhism, occultism, and scientific naturalism. Spirit Matters covers a range of scenarios from the Victorian hearth and the state-Church altar to the frontiers of empire in Buddhist countries and Egyptian crypts. Franklin reveals how this diversity of elements provided the materials for the formation of new hybrid religions and the emergence in the 20th century of New Age spiritualities.

Franklin investigates a broad spectrum of experiences through a series of representative case studies that together trace the development of unorthodox religious and spiritual discourses. The ideas and events discussed by Franklin through these case studies were considered outside the domain of orthodox religion yet still religious or spiritual rather than atheistic or materialistic. Among the works—obscure and canonical—he analyzes are Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Zanoni and A Strange Story; Forest Life in Ceylon, by William Knighton; Anthony Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton; Anna Leonowens’s The English Governess at the Siamese Court; Literature and Dogma, by Matthew Arnold; and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 

Praise for Spirit Matters

"Overall, the book [Spirit Matters] is excellent: a very close reading of a set of sources for historical data where many would not think to perform such a reading. Even better, Franklin has chosen works that had wide popular appeal, showing that this middle ground he investigates was not only present in many different sources but that it also held popular appeal outside of the academy and specialized spheres. While this careful and exacting source work will likely only appeal to scholars with an established interest in the area, such readers are in for a treat."


– Michael E. Heyes, author of Margaret’s Monsters: Women, Identity, and the Life of St. Margaret in Medieval England, review in Nova religio

 



 

The Lotus and the Lion

 
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Buddhism is indisputably gaining prominence in the West, as is evidenced by the growth of Buddhist practice within many traditions and keen interest in meditation and mindfulness. In The Lotus and the Lion, J. Jeffrey Franklin traces the historical and cultural origins of Western Buddhism, showing that the British Empire was a primary engine for curiosity about and then engagement with the Buddhisms that the British encountered in India and elsewhere in Asia. As a result, Victorian and Edwardian England witnessed the emergence of comparative religious scholarship with a focus on Buddhism, the appearance of Buddhist characters and concepts in literary works, the publication of hundreds of articles on Buddhism in popular and intellectual periodicals, and the dawning of syncretic religions that incorporated elements derived from Buddhism.


In this fascinating book, Franklin analyzes responses to and constructions of Buddhism by popular novelists and poets, early scholars of religion, inventors of new religions, social theorists and philosophers, and a host of social and religious commentators. Examining the work of figures ranging from Rudyard Kipling and D. H. Lawrence to H. P. Blavatsky, Thomas Henry Huxley, and F. Max Müller, Franklin provides insight into cultural upheavals that continue to reverberate into our own time. Those include the violent intermixing of cultures brought about by imperialism and colonial occupation, the trauma and self-reflection that occur when a Christian culture comes face-to-face with another religion, and the debate between spiritualism and materialism. The Lotus and the Lion demonstrates that the nineteenth-century encounter with Buddhism subtly but profoundly changed Western civilization forever.

 

Praise for The Lotus and the Lion: Buddhism and the British Empire

"J. Jeffrey Franklin has written a thoroughly researched and fascinating account of the influence of Buddhism mainly on British culture, roughly from 1820 into the early 1900s. . . .Franklin’s treatment of Buddhism especially in Victorian and modernist British literature is both thorough and illuminating. Among humanities scholars, Franklin has definitely acquired merit."


– Patrick Brantlinger, author of States of Emergency: Essays on Culture and Politics, review in Cahiers victoriens et édouardianes