Lori Peterson Branch
My scholarship focuses on the British long 18th century and ranges from the 4th-century Sayings of the Desert Fathers to contemporary Gothic fiction. Across my work, I think critically about secularism as an ideology and seek to find fresh language to speak about religion in its breadth and complexity as we encounter it in literature, the world, and personal experience, especially as religion is shaped and re-shaped by secularism in modernity.
My conviction is that a thorough-going critique of the secular/religious binary produced in the Enlightenment upends our conventional understandings of both religion and secularity, enabling us to grapple with uncertainty, interpretation, and faith in ways that are postsecular and noncoercive, disarming the polarization that plagues our political climate and contributing to practices of human flourishing, in the academy and out.
I serve on the Iowa English department’s IDEAS committee and am committed to heightening the multi-faceted diversity, equity, and inclusivity of the department, college, and university.
Recent Publication: "How To Talk About Religion and Literature: A Modest Proposal," Modern Language Quarterly 2022
Courses: “Mystery, Uncertainty, & Hope: Postsecular Studies and the Novel”; “Children’s Literature: Modern British Classics, Their Fans, and Their Critics”; “The Bible Among Its Readers”; “William Wordsworth”; “Gothic Fiction”; “Restoration Literature: The Making of the Modern Self”; “Fairy Tales and Their Literary Legacies.”
Monographs: Rituals of Spontaneity: Sentiment and Secularism from Free Prayer to Wordsworth (Christianity & Literature Book of the Year 2007); Postsecular Reason (in progress); The Violation of God: Masculinity and Secularism in the Enlightenment (in progress).
Restoration & 18th-Century British Literature
Religion, Secularism, and the Novel
Literary Theory and Theology
The Bible and Literature