MWF 9:00-9:50 am
Cross-listed with ENGL 365X.
What does faith look and sound like in language? Are certain words, images, and ways of speaking inherently sacred? How do religious poets respond to The Word through words? Can poetry bring us closer to God?
Thomas Aquinas argued that “poetic knowledge is of things which on account of a defect of truth cannot be grasped by reason and that is why reason must be seduced…” In other words, we need a kind of artistic seduction to lead our imaginations past the limits of reason. As Marilynne Robinson put it, “great theology is always a kind of giant and intricate poetry.” Of course this does not mean that all poetry, or even all great poetry, should function as theology. What these quotes do suggest is that poetry, in its complexity of thought, in its incantatory sounds and rhythms, and in its frequently associative logic, offers unique avenues for the imaginative exploration of faith and religion.
In order to answer questions like those above and to imaginatively explore faith ourselves, this course will survey a range of modern poets who self-identify as religious believers. While the majority of our study will be focused on the wealth of Christian poetry of the 20th Century, we will be reading Jewish, Mormon, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu poets as well. It is also important to note that although the subject matter of this course is deeply religious, one need not be a believer to interrogate artistic representations of belief, and, as we will see, the poetry of faith is often inseparable from the poetry of religious doubt.
Texts may include:
Christian Wiman, Every Riven Thing
Lisa Russ Spaar, Satin Cash
W.H. Auden, Selected Poems
Khaled Mattawa, Amorisco
Denise Levertov, The Stream and the Sapphire
Czeslaw Milosz, Selected Poems
Richard Wilbur, Selected Poems
Fady Joudah, The Earth in the Attic
T.S. Eliot, Selected Poems
Kelly Cherry, Hazard and Prospect