Exploring the surprising presence of Christian Science in American literature at the turn of the 20th century, L. Ashley Squires reveals the rich and complex connections between religion and literature in American culture. Mary Baker Eddy's Church of Christ, Scientist was one of the fastest growing and most controversial religious movements in the United States, and it is no accident that its influence touched the lives and work of many American writers, including Frances Hodgson Burnett, Willa Cather, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, and Mark Twain. Squires focuses on personal stories of sickness and healing—whether supportive or deeply critical of Christian Science’s recommendations --penned in a moment when the struggle between religion and science framed debates about how the United States was to become a modern nation. As outsized personalities and outlandish rhetoric took to the stage, Squires examines how the poorly understood Christian Science movement contributed to popular narratives about how to heal the nation and advance the cause of human progress.
Introduction: Restitution and Modernity
1. The Falling Apple: The Rise of Christian Science
2. Build Therefore Your Own World: The Restitution Narratives of Frances Hodgson Burnett
3. Error Uncovered: Mark Twain and the Limits of Demystification
4. All the News Worth Reading: Literary Journalism and the Christian Science Monitor
5. The Tragedy of Desire: Social Justice, Gender Politics, and Theodore Dreiser’s "The Genius"