Christian Theology and Tragedy: Theologians, Tragic Literature and Tragic Theory (Hardback) book cover

Christian Theology and Tragedy

Theologians, Tragic Literature and Tragic Theory

By Giles Waller

Edited by Kevin Taylor

© 2011 – Routledge

270 pages

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Hardback: 9780754669401
pub: 2011-09-28
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About the Book

Drawing together leading scholars from both theological and literary backgrounds, Christian Theology and Tragedy explores the rich variety of conversations between theology and tragedy. Three main areas are examined: theological readings of a range of tragic literature, from plays to novels and the Bible itself; how theologians have explored tragedy theologically; and how theology can interact with various tragic theories. Encompassing a range of perspectives and topics, this book demonstrates how theologians can make productive use of the work of tragedians, tragic theorists and tragic philosophers. Common misconceptions - that tragedy is monolithic, easily definable, or gives straightforward answers to theodicy - are also addressed. Interdisciplinary in nature, this book will appeal to both the theological and literary fields.


'Christianity can never turn its back either on tragedy or the tragic; not if it wants to face the world squarely. The tragic all too evidently occurs and tragedy meditates upon it - raising metaphysical and theological issues in its wake. This remarkable collection of essays stages imaginative dialogues between voices, characters and situations across two and a half millennia of writing. And out of the conversations created, as theological and philosophical reflection engages literary studies and biography, comes a dazzling cross-fertilisation of thought and feeling. I have never encountered a collection like this. It offers original and profound deliberations on issues riddling human histories and sounding the mysterious depths of the human condition itself.' Graham Ward, University of Manchester, UK 'Can notions of a final and complete redemption, so central to Christian conviction, be reconciled with the tragic vision and its acceptance of the irretrievability of certain kinds of failure? The complexities involved here are not just theological, but also involve themes central to literature, philosophical anthropology, and the history of ideas. This excellent collection, by scholars belonging to a variety of intellectual traditions, casts a new light on this question, while eschewing the temptations of an easily gained clarity. It will certainly be a point of reference for subsequent discussions of this topic.' Kenneth Surin, Duke University, USA 'There are few more pressing issues for contemporary Christian theology than the relationships to classical and modern tragedy. This fine collection is excellent in remembering past and present theological attempts to correlate theology and tragedy. The collection also provides several new constructive theological suggestions on tragic suffering, evil and redemption. A splendid achievement!' David Tracy, University of Chicago, USA '… the volume recognizes that to work something out imaginatively has the potential t

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part I Theology and Tragic Literature: Four Biblical characters: in search of a tragedy, Ben Quash; Tragic sacrifice and faith: Abraham and Agamemnon again, Jennifer Wallace; Primo Levi and the tragedy of Dante's Ulysses, Vittorio Montemaggi; 'Thee thither in a whirlwind': tragedy and theology in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, Robin Kirkpatrick. Part II Theologians and Tragedy: Freedom, fate and sin in Donald MacKinnon's use of tragedy, Giles Waller; Simone Weil: force, tragedy, and grace in Homer's Iliad, Adrian Poole; Hans Urs von Balthasar and Christ the tragic hero, Kevin Taylor; The tragedy is in the pity: C.S. Lewis and the Song of the Goat, Michael Ward. Part III Theology Engaged with Tragic Theory: Participating in the tragedy: emplotting the Dionysian in Christian thought, Craig Hovey; Tragedy, contingency, and atonement: Waiting for Godot and Jesus of Montreal, Larry D. Bouchard; Sacrifice and the tragic imagination, Douglas Hedley; Tragedy without evasion: attending [to] performances, David S. Cunningham; Conclusion, David F. Ford; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author/Editor

Kevin Taylor studied theology at Wake Forest University and Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his PhD in Divinity from the University of Cambridge (Peterhouse). Giles Waller's undergraduate degree in Divinity is from the University of Cambridge (Peterhouse), and he began his PhD with Ben Quash at Peterhouse; he is currently supervised by David Ford.

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:
RELIGION / Christianity / General