'Monstrous tricks with the metre' : the Creeds, Dante and Dorothy L. Sayers' orthodoxy without sentiment.

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts


In my thesis "'Monstrous Tricks with the Metre': The Creeds, Dante and Dorothy L. Sayers' Orthodoxy without Sentiment" I shed new light on the works of lay-theologian and dramatist Dorothy L. Sayers by placing her within the broader context of religious fragmentation during the 20th century in England. In the mid-20th century, the Anglican Church attempted to combat secularization and de-Christianization that had been exacerbated by the two World Wars. The Church offered a number of different solutions for this fragmentation. One was presented by Anglo-Catholics who emphasized a return to dogma and ritual in the church. A second option was put forward by Modernists who proposed a synthesis of faith and science in order to make church doctrine receptive to scientific developments. By placing Sayers in the middle of the fractious Anglican Church and an increasingly secularized England, I argue that hers was an innovative method for presenting the co-existent nature of theology and literature. Sayers accepted parts of both Anglo-Catholicism and Modernism in order to reach her audience: like the Anglo-Catholics she emphasized unchanging dogma, but like the modernists she recognized the need for an innovative presentation through modernizing the language of dogma. This provides the frame for my reading of Sayers' most widely discussed work: the translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. I argue that her work was not a bad piece of scholarship, as academics have previously stated. Rather it was the expression of her theological principles and her particular understanding of the role of art which was best expressed by the poetry of the Divine Comedy. Sayers intentionally created a translation that was dynamic and readable for her modern audience, even at the cost of textual fidelity. By firmly grounding her translation in a doctrine of the Incarnation, Sayers effectively linked her wartime creedal broadcasts with a literary artistry.