Narrative and eschatology: Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark and the theology of narrative

Date of Completion

January 2009


Literature, Modern|Theology|Literature, English




The dissertation examines the theological nature of narrative endings in the novels of three twentieth century British Catholic converts, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark. As the hermeneutics of suspicion demythologizes the notion of both an apocalyptic end to the world and an individual's own personal eschatology, modernist and postmodernist authors increasingly create difficult and perplexing narrative endings. Although Greene, Waugh and Spark convert to and adopt a strict and orthodox faith in Catholicism, the influence of existential thought on Christian conceptions of finitude and eternity impacts the means by which they represent temporality in their narratives. Christian eschatology is formed by two dialectical views toward death seemingly at odds with each other. Realized eschatology claims that Christ's resurrection insures our own “now,” whereas personal eschatology addresses how our salvation has “not yet” occurred. The closure and endings of Greene, Waugh and Spark's novels reflect the tension between a realized and a personal eschatology, and provoke interpretation concerning both the end-directed nature of narratives and an individual's relationship to death in a post-Christian world. Greene, Waugh and Spark attempt to reconcile religious beliefs concerning time and death with existential and phenomenological notions of temporal experience. An interpretation of several works by each novelist reveals a healthy relationship between theological methodology and narrative theory.^