Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laura L. Runge, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tova Cooper, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John A. McClure, Ph.D.


Exile, Pilgrimage, Postmodernism, Religion, Secularism, Spirituality


In the current “secular age,” more and more people find beliefs and behaviors associated with traditional religion intellectually and ethically untenable. At the same time, many “postsecular” writers, both believers and nonbelievers, continue to write with religious or religiously-inflected forms, themes, and purposes. In the United States, postsecular poets “wrestle with angels” by engaging constructively and deconstructively with matters traditionally considered the domain of religion and spirituality. While the recent work of Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, John McClure and others puts the concept of the postsecular at the cutting edge of various fields of study, including religion, sociology, and literature, this dissertation presents the first study of contemporary postsecular poetry. The central question is, how should we define and describe contemporary postsecular poetry in the United States and how should we understand its religious and literary significance? To answer this question, this dissertation presents a broad survey of postsecular contemporary American poetry, offers extended analyses of the work of two preeminent postsecular poets—Li-Young Lee and Scott Cairns—and probes the implications for readers of the poetic forms found in such texts.