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Recovering the New Thought Novel
February 6, 2017 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Kingdon Fellow (2016-2017)
Department of English, Saint Louis University
Did you know that many well-loved children’s classics contain hidden Christian Science and New Thought messages? My book shows how classic children’s fiction written around 1900 – works such as Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1911), L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908), Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna (1913), and Arthur Munk’s The Little Engine that Could (1930) – helped spread awareness of Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science and a related religious movement known as New Thought, which promoted positive thinking as a means to health and prosperity. While historians have ably discussed how New Thought and Christian Science principles permeate aspects of modern life, from corporate culture to talk shows, twelve-step groups, diet fads, and prosperity gospel, literary scholars have had little to say about the role played by popular fiction in diffusing these faiths. Recovering the New Thought Novel fills this gap by showing how beloved children’s books have influenced us, our children, and our society, focusing especially on self-help and psychotherapy concepts like the inner child.
Anne Stiles is Associate Professor of English and Director of Medical Humanities at Saint Louis University. She is the author of Popular Fiction and Brain Science in the Late Nineteenth Century (Cambridge UP, 2012) and the editor of Neurology and Literature, 1866-1920 (Palgrave, 2007). She also co-edited two volumes published by Elsevier in 2013 as part of their Progress in Brain Research series. Stiles serves as Victorian section co-editor of the Wiley-Blackwell journal, Literature Compass. Her most recent work focuses on literary authors’ responses to Christian Science and New Thought on both sides of the Atlantic.