After the Reformation, science superseded both religion and literature as the favored source of kwledge. As people became free of a catechism of rote responses, they found the concept of self-determination both liberating and terrifying. Literature stepped in by providing examples of fictional characters that made choices in circumstances similar to the quandaries faced by readers_situations that could t be easily resolved by scripture alone.
Joyce D. Brotton is associate professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College, where she teaches world literature, composition, and technical writing. She also serves as Program Head for English Adjunct Faculty and coordinates the Certificate in Professional Writing for the college.