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“Young Goodman Brown”
“Good Man Little Faith”

The purpose of this lesson is to show how you can use the Bible and and Biblical Studies tools in teaching other literature. The Bible has made important contributions to British and American literature since the earliest Anglo-Saxon works. Sometimes tracing that influence back through earlier sources can help understand the work itself, meaning that we have the opportunity to apply Source Criticism from a work descended from the Bible, as well as to the Bible itself.

I was a student as New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary 1980-1988 studying New Testament and Greek. When I finished there, I went to LSU for a Ph.D. in comparative literature. Despite the fact that both fields are in literary studies, they don't always play well together. This in spite of the fact that any of the critical theories used in English can be used on the Bible, and that any of the critical methods used in Biblical Studies can be used on English texts. So I've been interested in developing a Grand Unified Theory of Critical Theory.

In 1992, I began teaching English at Louisiana Tech. One of the classes I taught frequently was English 102, where students write about literature. Early on, I started teaching “Young Goodman Brown”; I identified with Goodman Brown immediately, and had the feeling that I had something to say about the story, but didn't know what.

In 1998, my father gave me his copy of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Finally finished with my formal education, I was in the process of reading the Great Works I'd Never Read. In school, I only had time to read what I'd been assigned. So I was reading books like Moby Dick, and now Pilgrim's Progress. When I read to the chapter “Good Man Little Faith,” I immediately recognized the similarities with “Young Goodman Brown,” but that understates the experience. It felt like time stopped, and I had that feeling of a first discovery, perhaps like what Baron von Tischendorf felt when he discovered the Codex Sinaiticus. I immediately started searching for the article that had pointed out that Hawthorne had used Bunyan as a model for “Young Goodman Brown,” and was delighted to find that nobody had made this connection before. I then researched to find out if Hawthorne was familiar with Bunyan, and was again delighted to find out that Bunyan was one of Hawthorne's favorite authors, and that he had even written an updated version of Pilgrim's Progress called “The Celestial Railroad.”

For generations, scholars agreed that Brown lost his Christian faith in the forest, based on his cry, “My [wife] Faith is gone!” In 1956, Thomas Connolly threw a clod into the punch bowl of scholarship when he argued that since the story is an allegory, Brown couldn't have lost his Christian faith because he was still married to his wife Faith. So as a class, our specific quest is to see if we can solve one of the mystery of what precisely Brown lost during his trip to the forest.

So follow the links below to see what I found out, and how I share that with my students. Remember, these are lectures from my 102 class, so don't worry about doing the thesis exercises and rough draft.

  1. Lecture on “Young Goodman Brown.”
  2. Lecture on “Good Man Little-Faith” and its source material from the Synoptics.
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