Controversial poet Ronald Stuart Thomas was considered to be one of the leading writers of the twentieth century. This book, in three parts, interprets the development of a major theme over Thomas's twenty-seven volumes, probing particular themes and poems with a meticulous insight. The themes of identity, environment, and deity treated reflect the major preoccupations of his life and work. The book presents a comprehensive examination of these major themes as they occur across Thomas's substantial oeuvre, while providing an expanded frame within which the considerable complexity of Thomas's work can be explored. It suggests that such poetic explorations and revelations of identity provide the prima materia of the poetry and form an underlying foundation to Thomas's poetry viewed as a single body of work. Thomas's treatment of the natural world, in particular the theology of nature mysticism vital to much of his work, is then discussed. The book also looks closely at Thomas's increasing preoccupation with science. It explores his philosophical concern with a scientific register for poetry, his own experimentation with that register, his subtle ambivalence towards applied technology, his ongoing critique of 'the machine', and his view of modern physics. Finally, examining Thomas's 'religious poetry', the book re-focuses on the exact nature of his poetic approach to a 'theology of experience' as reflected in his 'mythic' and 'via negativa' modes. It highlights Thomas's 'reconfiguring' of theology, that is, his insistence on the central validity and importance of individual spiritual experience, both as absence and as presence.
George Herbert (1593–1633), the celebrated devotional poet, and his brother Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583–1648), often described as the father of English deism, are rarely considered together. This collection explores connections between the full range of the brothers’ writings and activities, despite the apparent differences both in what they wrote and in how they lived their lives. More specifically, the volume demonstrates that despite these differences, each conceived of their extended republic of letters as militating against a violent and exclusive catholicity; theirs was a communion in which contention (or disputation) served to develop more dynamic forms of comprehensiveness. Contributors break new ground in manuscript and translation studies (French, Italian, and Latin). The literary, philosophical, and musical production of the Herbert brothers appears here in its full European context, connected as they were with the Sidney clan and its own investment in international Protestantism. The disciplinary boundaries between poetry, philosophy, politics, and theology in modern universities in no way reflect the deep interconnectedness of these pursuits in the seventeenth century. Crossing disciplinary and territorial borders, contributors discuss a variety of texts and media, including poetry, musical practices, autobiography, letters, council literature, orations, philosophy, history, and nascent religious anthropology, all serving as agents of the circulation and construction of transregionally inspired and collective responses to human conflict and violence. We see as never before the profound connections, face-to-face as well as textual, linking early modern British literary culture with the continent.
Perception and analogy explores ways of seeing scientifically in the eighteenth century. It discusses literary, theological, and didactic texts alongside popular works on astronomy, optics, ophthalmology, and the body to demonstrate how readers are prompted to take on a range of perspectives in their acquisition of scientific knowledge. With reference to topics from colour perception to cataract surgery, the book examines how sensory experience was conceptualised during the eighteenth century. It argues that by paying attention to the period’s documentation of perception as an embodied phenomenon we can better understand the creative methods employed by disseminators of diverse natural philosophical ideas. This book argues for the central role of analogy in conceptualising and explaining new scientific ideas. It centres on religious and topographical poetry by writers including James Thomson, Richard Blackmore, Mark Akenside, Henry Brooke, David Mallet, Elizabeth Carter, and Christopher Smart. Together with its readings of popular educational dialogues on scientific topics, the book also addresses how this analogical approach is reflected in material culture through objects – such as orreries, camera obscuras, and Aeolian harps – that facilitate acts of perception and tactile engagement within polite spaces. The book shows how scientific concepts become intertwined with Christian discourse through reinterpretations of origins and signs, the scope of the created universe, and the limits of embodied knowledge.
critical attention in recent years as ‘the
first sonnet sequence in English’: to that distinction can be added (and
frequently is) those of being a religious sonnet sequence, and of being by
a woman.1 Lock’s Meditation is credited with ‘introduc[ing] the religious
sonneteer into English-speaking culture’, and her text is a very early
milestone in the emergence of original religiouspoetry more broadly in
sixteenth-century England, a syncretic process of devotional language
flowing into lyric verse of which the religious sonnet is just one, highly
wrought, example.2 To a
6 Theologies and beyond
This chapter begins with an examination of the philosophical grounding
for R. S. Thomas’s ‘religiouspoetry’ as found in his 1966 article ‘A
Frame for Poetry’ and in his 1963 ‘Introduction’ to The Penguin Book of
Religious Verse. It then examines Thomas’s ‘mythic’ poems by focusing
on the 1972 collection H’m. Chapter 7 examines Thomas’s ‘via negativa’ and ‘via affirmativa’ poems by concentrating on the collections
Frequencies (1978) and Destinations (1985), in which these ‘types’ are
Passionate performances – Poems
erotic and divine
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.
(‘Batter my heart’, ll. 12–14)
Whereas Donne’s erotic poems are much indebted to religious
metaphor, his nineteen ‘Holy Sonnets’ strongly rely on erotic
imagery. After an analysis of Donne’s religiously erotic poems,
these are now to be compared to his erotically religiouspoetry.
As it engages in a histrionics of love making, Donne’s erotic
poetry conceives of love as a matter of (artful) performance, hence
immediacy, action, role-playing, forms of speech, pathos, wit, effect,
genre. Legouis comes to the conclusion ‘that general agreement upon the
epithet “dramatic” rather tends to confusion than enlightenment because no
two critics seem to understand it in the same sense’ (47). See also Austin,
Language 16; Gardner, ‘ReligiousPoetry’ 189; Leishman, Monarch of
Wit 20; Robbins 231–2; Wilcox, ‘Devotional Writing’ 154, 161. Müller
In 1615 the clergyman Jeremiah Dyke exclaimed ‘surely wee never beginne to know Divinitie or Religion, till wee come to know our selves’. His clarion call, and the ‘devotional turn’ in early modern historiography, urges us to look anew at how ordinary men and women lived out their faith in painstaking and sometimes painful ways. People and Piety is an interdisciplinary edited collection that investigates Protestant devotional identities in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Divided into two sections, it examines the ‘sites’ where these identities were forged (the academy, printing house, household, theatre and prison) and the ‘types’ of texts that expressed them (spiritual autobiographies, religious poetry and writings tied to the ars moriendi), providing a varied and broad analysis of the social, material and literary forms of religious devotion during England’s Long Reformation. Through archival and cutting-edge research, a detailed picture of ‘lived devotion’ emerges. From the period’s most recognisable religious authors (Richard Baxter, George Herbert, Oliver Heywood and Katherine Sutton) to those rarely discussed and recently discovered voices (Isaac Archer, Mary Franklin and Katherine Gell), this book reveals how piety did not define people; it was people who defined their piety. Contributors include internationally recognised scholars from either side of the Atlantic: Sylvia Brown, Vera J. Camden, Bernard Capp, John Coffey, Ann Hughes, N. H. Keeble and William Sheils. To those studying and teaching religion and identity in early modern England, and anyone interested in the history of religious self-expression, this book will be a rich and rewarding read.
Looking to the presentation of colour in Thomson’s Seasons, Blackmore’s Creation, Akenside’s The Pleasures of Imagination, Mallet’s Excursion and several other topographical poems, this chapter demonstrates how explanatory descriptions of their occurrence and perception in the natural environment become for writers a way to stimulate the reader’s empirical perception and knowledge. The relationship between natural philosophy, subjectivity, and experience is established in the first section through an investigation of Newton’s optical experiments. The second section considers challenges to the analogical significance of colour categories by looking at representations of the rainbow and individual colours in a range of religious, natural philosophical, and literary examples. Alternatives to Newton’s account of colour production and perception are also explored: Louis-Bertrand Castel’s materialist theory, George Berkeley’s equation of both colours and physical phenomena as non-material in Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, and Christopher Smart’s religious poetry, which provides an anti-Newtonian spectrum. The chapter closes by presenting three analogical tropes that poets use to describe the effect and experience of perceiving colour in the natural world: colour as painting or dye, colour as tapestry or weaving, and colour as clothing or covering.
Chapter 5 addresses poetic representations of embodied perception including disturbed or inhibited sight, compensatory sensibility, and the interplay between the nerves and the senses in the construction of knowledge and experience. The models of embodied perception offered here correspond with a preoccupation with the limits of knowledge in contrast to the camera obscura model explored in Chapter 4. The first section of the chapter outlines a mid-century emphasis on the body’s role in individual perception by exploring descriptions of sight in topographical poetry by Thomas Gray, James Thomson, and Mark Akenside, together with accounts of sensory description in the work of the blind poet Thomas Blacklock. The subsequent section addresses models of spiritual perception and embodiment in Edward Young’s Night Thoughts and the religious poetry of William Blake. The second half of the chapter introduces the impact of Hartleian associationism and eighteenth-century accounts of the nerves and sensation. Finally, poetic examples from Akenside to Coleridge demonstrate the emergence of the Aeolian harp as an analogy for imaginative creation and sensory engagement.