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Poetry and the Religious Imagination: The Power of the Word



Release date: January 2015
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Poetry and the Religious Imagination. Heythrop College, University of London, UK.


  • Preface
  • Introduction, Francesca Bugliani Knox
  • Part I: Theology and Literature in Context
    • Theology and literature in the English-speaking world, Michael Kirwan
    • Why theologians are interested in literature: theological-literary hermeneutics in the works of Guardini, Balthasar, Tillich and Kuschel, Georg Langenhorst
  • Part II The Religious Imagination
    • From Thomas Aquinas to Wallace Stevens: Identifying a religious imagination, Michael Paul Gallagher SJ
    • Religious imagination and poetic audacity in Thomas Aquinas, Olivier-Thomas Venard OP
    • Dante and the indispensability of the image, John Took
    • Law and divine mercy in Shakespeare’s religious imagination: Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice, Paul S. Fiddes
    • Wallace Stevens on God, imagination and reality, John McDade
  • Part III Inspiration: Poetry and Poetry Reading
    • Poetry as scripture, poetry as inspiration, Jay Parini
    • The poet as ‘worldmaker’: T.S. Eliot and the religious imagination, Dominic Griffiths
    • Non tantum lecturi sed facturi: reading poetry as spiritual transformation, Antonio Spadaro SJ
    • Reading as active contemplation, Jennifer Reek
  • Part IV Poets and Spiritual Experience: Mystical Gestures
    • ‘There is a verge of the mind’: imagination and mystical gesture in Rilke’s later poems,
    • Mark S. Burrows‘The pulse in the wound’: embodiment and grace in Denise Levertov’s religious poetry, Sarah Law
  • Part V Poetry, Religious Imagination and Religious Belief
    • Images of the Virgin in the late 16th century: the Catholic devotional poetry of Henry Constable, Lilla Grindlay
  • Index


‘This collection of essays has an impressive range, with contributions on Aquinas and Dante from one historical period, on Constable and Shakespeare from another, and on Eliot, Levertov, Rilke and Wallace Stevens from nearer our own times. The result might have been indigestible but in fact the work is full of rich insights, helped not least by the editors’ decision to arrange the material by theme rather than chronologically, and also by commissioning two splendid introductory essays that provide the broader context for such discussions in twentieth century literary theory and theology.’ 

David Brown, ITIA (the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts), University of St Andrews, UK

‘A fine collection of essays by young and established scholars, which asks some crucial questions: What is the relationship between theology and poetry? Faith and imagination? Devotion and art? It will help to open up a long-neglected, but absolutely vital field of intellectual investigation. Greatly to be welcomed.’

Angela Leighton, Trinity College, Cambridge

 ‘For the authors in this rich volume, poetry is not merely an artful form of discourse; it exemplifies a way of thinking. Poetic imagination underlies and overlaps with the mind’s quest for the metaphysical and the religious. In a mixture of theoretical considerations and case studies, these essays offer a valuable summary of the state of the question of the relation of theology and literature, and they provide enticing and often delightful insights into different styles of poetic imagination as it opens on to the transcendent.’

Richard Viladesau, Fordham University, USA

David Jasper, Review for Oxford Journals: Literature and Theology

Daniel John Pilkington, Review for Sophia, September 2015 54:3 pp. 399–401