Faith, Sex, Mystery Critical Context - Essay

Richard Gilman

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Gilman states clearly in the final chapter of this book that it is a radical departure from the previous works that have made his name as a drama critic and teacher of modern theater. His other works—Decadence: The Strange Life of an Epithet (1979), The Making of Modern Drama: A Study of Buchner, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Pirandello, Brecht, Beckett, Handke (1974), Common and Uncommon Masks: Writings on Theatre, 1961-1970 (1971), and The Confusion of Realms (1969)—are either columns of dramatic criticism published in magazines such as Newsweek and Commonweal or the result of his teaching at Yale and Columbia universities and his work as a literary adviser to the Open Theater.

This book is a revelation of the secret places of Gilman’s soul. He has written it to give the model of an honest and intelligent man’s journey from unfaith to faith and back again. Beyond the personal message of this memoir, Gilman wishes to bear witness against the growth of what he considers the “aggressive, derivative religiosity,” and “idiot vulgarity” of the new popularity of religion and the born-again movement. He says openly that he wants to protect God from those who believe in Him for the wrong reason, using Him as either a weapon of war against nonbelievers or as a self-righteous justification of their own limited ideas of Him.