Dr. Stephen Sicari

Dr. Stephen Sicari

Professor, English

B.A. Manhattan College

M.A. and Ph.D. Cornell University

Research Interests: Literary Modernism; History of the Novel; Literature and Religion


Stephen Sicari has been at St. John’s since 1996 after ten years at Adelphi University, and was Chair of the English Department from 1997 to 2018. His latest book, Modernist Reformations: Poetry as Theology in Eliot, Stevens, and Joyce, was published last spring by Clemson University Press. It is one of the few studies of literary modernism to deal directly with religion and theology, and perhaps the only one to bring Stevens and Joyce into the forefront as religious writers. The high modernist writers break apart old concepts and attitudes toward religion and allow a contemporary readership to understand how the hopes and higher feeling of religion can be retrieved.

One critic has said about the book, “Sicari makes a compelling case for why and how modernist art can be read as doing theological work, beginning with a fresh and welcomingly capacious sense of what ‘theological work’ might mean. Bold in its claims, clear and rigorous in its argumentation and reading, the book makes a thoroughgoing, insightful, and well-contextualized case for seeing Stevens, Eliot, and Joyce as working each in their own manner to ‘reform and renew religious experience.’ In the spirit of its subject matter the book also cries out for—and demonstrates—a form of criticism ‘made new’: a model of contextualized close reading as a radical theological act that breathes life into poetry and will inspire, regardless of your beliefs about belief.”

He has also written an essay for The Oxford Handbook on Allegory called “High Modernism and the ‘Allegory of Theologians’: Joyce, Eliot, Stevens, and Woolf”; and a chapter for Stevens in Theory (to be published by Liverpool University Press) called “From Philosophy to Theology: Stevens’ Angel and the Real.” Both will be published later in 2023.