Recent developments in the field of Victorian studies include its increasingly “global” or “transnational” scope as well as its “religious turn,” with a proliferation of scholarship on religion from Christian sects to new religious movements such as Theosophy. However, the highly relevant concept of global or globalized religion is not yet a part of Victorian literary scholarship. This speculative essay explores why this topic has been relatively invisible in Victorian literary studies and how the field might better encounter globalized religion and literature. The essay suggests that global religion remains absent from the field in consequence of how certain nineteenth-century ideas structure Victorian studies: for example, the treatment of religion as a fairly stable category that indexes an author’s or a text’s nationality and even aesthetic value. To move these ideas farther from structure to subject of studies in the field, this essay turns to religious studies and recent projects informed by work in Black studies that engages in “undisciplining” scholarly fields. Such work suggests how Victorian literary studies functions within a comparativist logic that treats religion as a universal cultural phenomenon that corresponds to national and aesthetic characteristics. A promising alternative is a “connective” rather than a comparativist approach, which entails emphasizing the historical formation of religious practices in cultural exchange. This more connective approach seeks to attune Victorian studies to aesthetic projects it has previously overlooked as outside its disciplinary borders. To illustrate this claim, this essay discusses the literary-spiritual project of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship, which flourished in twentieth-century America in literary and spiritual commentary on texts, including texts themselves more and less usually understood as Victorian, such as Edward FitzGerald’s 1859 translation of the Rubaiyat.

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