This essay summarizes some of the arguments about secularism and secularization that have productively unsettled the study of religion in the past two decades. It then turns to the question of what literary studies can offer to the study of religion. Literary scholarship takes an interest in persons, situations, and worlds imagined at a level of detail and complexity well beyond the fictional placeholders other disciplines employ in their thought experiments. This raises ethical and ontological questions about the “reality” of our objects of study. Dominant Western epistemological traditions, which get their leverage from a distinction between illusion and reality, struggle with such in-between spaces. However, this is the space in which literary studies lives, and acknowledging that may help us decide why literature is a compelling and disturbing maker of religious sense.

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