Colin Jager is one of the finest critics now working on the relationship between secularization and literature in the nineteenth century. His first monograph, The Book of God, shows among other things how Romantic literature resists literary scholars’ assumptions about religion’s eclipse or demise at the hands of secular modernity. Jager’s second book, Unquiet Things, makes the same case for Romantic secularism, which it presents as the straitening and disciplining of religion by political power. These days, some such reassessment is de rigueur. Scholars of secularization no longer equate modernity with the obsolescence of religion, which, after all, has never disappeared from the world. Yet literary critics have been slow to grasp religion’s enduring relevance and still often write as if the arrival of modern secular individualism somehow marks its passing.

For the generalist, then, Unquiet Things offers a searching...

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