Honors Program

Honors in Philosophy, Honors in English

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Keith Green, Kevin O’Donnell

Thesis Professor Department

<--College of Arts and Sciences-->

Thesis Reader(s)

Jennifer Adler


Current scholarly work on E.L. Doctorow’s (1931-2015) novel The Book of Daniel: A Novel (1971) often ignores the narrator Daniel Isaacson’s implicit critique of Rousseau’s civil religion. This paper will show the importance of civil religion within the novel despite its being overlooked by most scholars. In The Book of Daniel, Daniel frequently examines instances of American civil religion and even goes as far as to describe it as inevitable and intrusive on freedom. Daniel implies throughout the novel that the American government models their civil religion on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s (1712-1778) conception as described in his treatise The Social Contract (1762). Daniel suggests that Rousseau’s approach to civil religion creates a false dilemma between the ideals of civil religious soldier and enemy. Daniel’s critique shows a limitation within Rousseau’s and possibly America’s understanding of civil religion. Despite there being evidence supporting his critique, Daniel’s extreme intersectional approach to identity makes his critique impossible to implement within societal, political, or legal realms since it allows people to be both soldier and enemy at the same time.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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