Repenting of Scientism: The Critical Function of Dante in George MacDonald’s 'Lilith'
Mike Wilhelm contends that Lilith is a work of “cultural apologetics” that deploys Dante as a challenge to the rising tide of reductionistic scientism in Victorian society. Mr. Vane, the novel’s protagonist, is presented as well-educated Victorian “who must repent of his scientistic affliction by discovering and recovering his lost imagination.” Wilhelm highlights the guiding role Dante plays in this journey, drawing attention to numerous allusions to the Divine Comedy and Vita Nuova and noting MacDonald's interaction with Dante in his published sermons and essays (Unspoken Sermons and A Dish of Orts). Images from Ante-Purgatory prove particularly vital. Mr. Vane ultimately awakens with his scientific mind reunited with his imagination, now ready for the lifelong work of repentance.