Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Faith, Hope and Poetry

Theology and the Poetic Imagination, 1st Edition

By Malcolm Guite


272 pages

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Faith, Hope and Poetry explores the poetic imagination as a way of knowing; a way of seeing reality more clearly. Presenting a series of critical appreciations of English poetry from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day, Malcolm Guite applies the insights of poetry to contemporary issues and the contribution poetry can make to our religious knowing and the way we 'do theology'. This book is not solely concerned with overtly religious poetry, but attends to the paradoxical ways in which the poetry of doubt and despair also enriches theology. Developing an original analysis and application of the poetic vision of Coleridge, Larkin and Seamus Heaney in the final chapters, Guite builds towards a substantial theology of imagination and provides unique insights into truth that complement and enrich more strictly rational ways of knowing. Readers of this book will return to their reading of poetry equipped with new insights and enthusiasm and will be challenged to integrate imaginative ways of knowing into their other academic and intellectual pursuits.


'Malcolm Guite, in this wide-ranging and original study, helps us see how poetry is - if we let ourselves be drawn in and shaped by it - a means of making connections with the fundamental way things are, and so too a way of connecting with a God who is himself a pattern of 'connection' as Trinity, open to share the divine reality with created life. Here are materials for a profound theology of the imagination, developed in dialogue with writers both familiar and unfamiliar, beautifully combining close reading with wide horizons.' The Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams 'No one with an interest in the history of poetry inspired by the Christian Faith can fail to be impressed with this book. Malcolm Guite has offered us an immensely rich work, ranging from the 8th Century Dream of the Rood, to Seamus Heaney via Shakespeare, John Davies, John Donne and George Herbert, in which the truth-telling available only in poetry is brought into the service of mature theological vision. It is quite simply both astounding and outstanding.' The Rt Revd Professor Stephen Sykes 'Malcolm Guite has the rare gift of being able to open up the depths of poetry and theology together. He is alert to form, content and context, and above all to the nuances of poetic visions of God, the complexities of faith, and spiritual transformations.' David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK 'To enter Malcolm Guite's Faith, Hope & Poetry is to discover a new continent with dazzling possibilities, a landscape where scholarship, vivid faith, word craft, imaginative insight, reflection and careful research are all available at a level that is revelatory to both academics and lay readers alike. Guite, not only an ordained Anglican priest but a poet and scholar of the highest order, invites us to this fresh feast - a summons that will widen our own worlds immeasurably.' Luci Shaw, Author, Harvesting Fog: Poems; Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit 'For a lover of poetry

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: poetry and transfiguration: reading for a new vision; Seeing through dreams: image and truth in The Dream of the Rood; Truth through feigning: story and play in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest; Understanding light: ways of knowing in the poems of Sir John Davies; A second glance: transfigured vision in the poems of John Donne and George Herbert; Holy light and human blindness: visions of the invisible in the poetry of Henry Vaughn and Milton; A secret ministry: journeying with Coleridge to the source of the imagination; Doubting faith, reticent hope:transfigured vision in Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin and Geoffrey Hill; The replenishing fountain: hope and renewal in the poetry of Seamus Heaney; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Malcolm Guite is a poet, priest and academic living and working in Cambridge. His recent writings include ’What Do Christians Believe?' 2006, 'Poetry, Playfulness and Truth…’ a chapter on the theology of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest in Faithful Performances: Enacting Christian Tradition, ed. Trevor Hart and Stephen Guthrie Ashgate 2007 and six poems in Live Simply, 2008. His chapter on the poetry of CS Lewis appears in the Cambridge Companion to CS Lewis, 2010.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts

What have imagination and the arts to do with theology? For much of the modern era, the answer has been 'not much'. It is precisely this deficit that this series seeks to redress. For, whatever role they have or have not been granted in the theological disciplines, imagination and the arts are undeniably bound up with how we as human beings think, learn and communicate, engage with and respond to our physical and social environments and, in particular, our awareness and experience of that which transcends our own creatureliness. The arts are playing an increasingly significant role in the way people come to terms with the world; at the same time, artists of many disciplines are showing a willingness to engage with religious or theological themes. A spate of publications and courses in many educational institutions has already established this field as one of fast-growing concern. This series taps into a burgeoning intellectual concern on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. The peculiar inter-disciplinarity of theology, and the growing interest in imagination and the arts in many different fields of human concern, afford the opportunity for a series that has its roots sunk in varied and diverse intellectual soils, while focused around a coherent theological question: How are imagination and the arts involved in the shaping and reshaping of our humanity as part of the creative and redemptive purposes of God, and what roles do they perform in the theological enterprise? Many projects within the series have particular links to the work of the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts in the University of St Andrews, and to the Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts at Duke University.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POETRY / General
RELIGION / General