This essay explores tensions between the practice of critique and recent calls for nonreductive engagement with global spiritualities, arguing for an approach to these experiences that is informed by the study of “lived religion.” Beginning with a discussion of contemporary devotional readings centered on Jane Austen’s oeuvre, it asks how literary criticism might productively read the long-standing entanglement of Austen studies with practices typically dismissed as problematically cultic, religious, or spiritually syncretic. In response to this, the essay places lived religion’s methodological approaches and many of its core insights in dialogue with contemporary discussions of description and postcritique in the literary humanities, drawing out shared implications, potential strengths, and limitations in the reading of religion. The essay thereby argues for increased attention not only to how text is used in idiosyncratic spiritual practices but to our own assumptions about what religion is and does for practitioners and critics alike.

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