Repenting of Scientism: The Critical Function of Dante in George MacDonald’s 'Lilith'


  • Michael Wayne Wilhelm Faulkner University


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. 

Author Biography

Michael Wayne Wilhelm, Faulkner University

Mike Wilhelm holds an M.A. in Biblical Interpretation from Lubbock Christian University, and is a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) of Faulkner University’s Great Books Honors College. He is writing his dissertation on the imaginative apologetics of George MacDonald’s Lilith. Mike is the senior chaplain at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch near Amarillo, Texas.