Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 March 2021
Chapter 1 lays out two common ways of thinking about the relationship between the religious and the secular. The first assumes that secular and religious approaches to the world are mutually exclusive; where one is ascendant the other must be in decline. The second considers the secular and religious to be paradoxically dependent on each other; one is always a curious inversion of the other. I suggest a better, third way inspired by Talal Asad’s Formations of the Secular, Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, and William Connolly’s A World of Becoming. A scene from Defoe’s The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719), the sequel to Robinson Crusoe (1719), shows how letting go of certain assumptions about the secular and religious can help us notice more of what is happening in the novel. The chapter ends with a brief discussion of what is at stake for literary studies in rethinking the secular, what we stand to lose if we do not and what we stand to gain if we do.