McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Conversion, Howatch, Lonergan, Starbridge Series
The purpose of this dissertation is to demonstrate that Bernard Lonergan's theory of conversion can be applied to the fictional lives of the three main characters in Susan Howatch's novels of the Starbridge series. This will validate Lonergan's theory and provide a comprehensible demonstration of it as well. The rationale of this study is based on two well-established assumptions. The first, articulated by Erich Auerbach in modern literary theory, is that literature mirrors reality; the second, expressed by Paul Ricoeur, among others, is that an author expresses his/her own worldview. Howatch's three main characters, Charles Ashworth, Jonathan Darrow, and Neville Aysgarth, reflect reality because as clergymen in the Church of England, they sin repeatedly, just as every Christian does. Afterward, through a process of redemption, they confront their sin, repent, and then work to put things right. Writing of those who experience conversion, Bernard Lonergan says that "they have to learn with humility that religious development is dialectical, that the task of repentance and conversion is life-long." This is precisely the process of conversion that these fictitious characters demonstrate. Susan Howatch herself has written on the ways in which the "religion" of an author necessarily seeps into his/her works. In addition, Howatch admits to having been in the throes of a conversion experience as she wrote the Starbridge novels. On many levels, then, these novels represent reality. Thus they provide a suitable vehicle for applying, exploring, and understanding Bernard Lonergan's complicated theory of conversion.
Hunt, T. (2009). The Application of Bernard Lonergan's Theory of Conversion to the Three Main Characters in Susan Howatch's Novels of the Starbridge Series (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/673