Commenter CJ Colucci has inquired more than once about how, exactly, I came to specialize in nineteenth-century religious fiction of, ah, less than stellar aesthetic quality. Here is how it happened:
1. Phase one: I am an English major at UC Irvine. Let's just say that in the late 80s, the tiny handful of Jews at UC Irvine were, if not showered with open antisemitism, nevertheless made to feel very Other. After a while, I became interested in religious issues because, well, they were being brought to my attention on a more frequent basis than I would have otherwise preferred.
2. Phase two: I become a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where there are fellow Jews all over the place. My personal reason for being interested in literature and religion goes by the wayside.
3. Phase three: Dissertating. By this stage in my career, I have discovered two things: one, I'm primarily interested in literary and intellectual history (I can close-read until the proverbial bovines return to their domicile, but I enjoy seeing how genres and concepts emerge and change over time); two, hey, religion seems pretty central to the texts I'm working on (early histories of women, the eventual subject of the diss and Book One), so I should think about it more closely.
4. Phase four: Professional life. Thanks to being at a non-R1, I can pretty much publish on whatever I feel like (this is an advantage of not being at an R1). Now, I've realized that a) I rather get a kick out of reading all this long-lost fiction, albeit with necessary detours into snark, and some of it turns out to have been quite influential; b) not very many other people are willing to put up with this material, and yet there's a lot of scholarship going on in religion & literature for which it's actually relevant; so c) let's say I put a + b together, do something I find interesting, and produce scholarship that might be helpful to other people? And thus, I started reading these things so you don't have to. (Although I'm afraid that I'm leaning more and more towards the position that you should read them anyway.)