By Carla Arnell
For the last decade, I have collaborated with undergraduate students in doing research about Evelyn Underhill and the Edwardian literary movements of which she was a part. At Lake Forest College, the small Illinois liberal arts college where I teach, each summer, students who have finished their first year with distinction have the opportunity to participate in what we call the Richter Honors Program. This program permits students to spend the summer working with a faculty member on his/her research, contributing to the professor’s ongoing projects and in turn receiving mentoring to learn the moves professional scholars make.
In 2007, I was looking for a new scholarly project to begin. I’d always been interested in the nexus between literature and spirituality, and I happened to recollect a course on “Mystics and Visionaries” that I’d taken years ago … Read more
By Carla Arnell, Lake Forest College
This essay suggests that a deeper understanding of the relationship between artistry and spirituality in Evelyn Underhill’s work depends upon examining how the Arts and Crafts movement, as a vehicle for translating and modernizing idealized aspects of medieval culture, shaped Underhill’s novels and, ultimately, her unique spiritual ethos. Her fiction is everywhere marked by medievalism and, more specifically, by the Arts and Crafts movement’s distinctive reception of medieval culture. A study of Underhill’s complex response to the Arts and Crafts movement illuminates why she sees God as a tool maker and the human soul as a craftsman for whom the material things of this world –architecture, stained glass, jewelry, books – can become vehicles for making this life meaningful and for practically accessing the beauty of a divine Reality beyond. I argue, therefore, that … Read more