Beyond sins and symptoms : suffering in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


David Fine


This work interrogates the ongoing popularity of Catholic Modern novelist Evelyn Waugh's 1945 classic Brideshead Revisited as a novel that depicts the modern struggle to find hope and meaning in the midst of suffering after the widespread onset of modernity and decline of Christianity in the wake of World Wars I and II. I argue that Waugh's characterization of Sebastian Flyte, a lapsed Catholic aristocrat struggling with familial dysfunction and subsequent alcoholism, confounds both traditional models of sin as well as psychological frameworks of diagnosis. Employing close readings from the novel as well as historical and theological context, I demonstrate that Sebastian's suffering falls into the no-mans-land between modernity and spirituality, highlighting the failures of each to support healing and the importance of embracing suffering with compassion.


Literature, Religion, Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, suffering, Catholicism, modernism, sin, diagnosis

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Copyright © 2021, author.