Dr. Shaffer outlines the development of the 'mythological school' of European Biblical criticism, especially its German origins and its reception in England, and studies the influences of this movement in the work of specific writers: Coleridge, Holderlin, Browning, and George Eliot.
The 'higher criticism' treated sacred scripture as literature and as history, the product of its time, and the highest expression of a developing group consciousness; it challenged current views on the authorship and dating of the Pentateuch and the Gospels, on inspiration, prophecy, and canonicity, and formulated a new apologetics closely linked with the growth of romantic aesthetics.
The importance of this study is that it shows that readings of specific literary texts can intersect with general movements of thought and action through the scrutiny of a clearly defined intellectual discipline, here the higher criticism, which developed as a particular expression of the larger trends in the history of the period. Dr Shaffer throws light on individual works of literature, the formation of movements, the origin of new genres, literary relationships between England and Germany, and the bases of European romanticism.
' Dr Schaffer's own erudition and her intellectual grasp and clarity are both great. She is one of those rare scholars who can, simultaneously, not only see both the wood and the trees, but point them out to others, offering an aerial perspective, a neat sketch, a botanical analysis, a map and a hint of poetical vision at the same time.' The New Review 'It is no exaggeration to say that this study is one of the few produced recently which European scholars and thinkers, so often and pertinently quoted, will have to take very seriously indeed.' George Steiner, The Times