Skip to main content

Modernism, Mysticism, and the Divine

Friedrich Nietzsche writes in 1882—the year both Virginia Woolf and James Joyce were born—“God is dead.  God remains dead.  And we have killed him . . . . With what water could we purify ourselves?  What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent?”  (The Gay Science). His startling pronouncements had enduring effects on nascent modernist aesthetics and ethics from the 1880s through at least the Second World War, and most critics agree that Nietzsche helped to herald an age of spiritual and religious uncertainty. In many ways Nietzsche had summed up a key dilemma of a post-Darwinian cultural and philosophical climate: aboulie, atheism, and secularism were the new creeds, while poets and authors increasingly found themselves called upon to negotiate the divisions between belief, disbelief, conversion, and renunciation.

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.