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In Wonder, Love and Praise

Approaches to Poetry, Theology and Philosophy

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Edited By Martin Potter, Malgorzata Grzegorzewska and Jean Ward

This collection of essays explores poetry’s contribution to the expression of theological wonder, which can occur both in ordinary life and in the natural world or can arise in the context of explicitly supernatural mystical experience. Poets have a special role in capturing religious awe in ways beyond the power of discursive language. Some essays in this book approach the subject on a theoretical level, working with theology, philosophy and literary criticism. Others provide close readings of poems in which the engagement with a variously understood idea or experience of wonder is prominent, from the English-language tradition and outside it. Poets from culturally and historically different backgrounds are thus drawn together through the focus on the meaning of wonder.

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Prolegomena: The Aporias of Wonder

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Abstract: The text discusses various facets of wonder: from curiosity to bewilderment; from the child’s innocent amazement to the adult’s lust for knowledge and power; from the force that stimulates movement to the paralysing stupor of the mind. The authors invoke Jean-Luc Marion’s concept of the “saturated phenomenon”, which denotes the phenomena given to us “in excess”, in which intuition overflows intention, to provide a conceptual framework for the discussion developed in the volume as a whole. A reference to Charles Wesley’s hymn “Love divine, all loves excelling”, combined with scriptural description of Jesus, Love embodied, sets the discussion of wonder in the context of religious poetry and mystical discourse. The Christian mystery of the Incarnation is invoked as a way of connecting the abstract discussion of wonder with the phenomenon of the flesh. A mention of the Anglo-Saxon dream vision allegory, The Dream of the Rood, reminds the reader of the suffering involved in the experience of wonder. Viewed in this perspective, wonder is defined as a fissure, perhaps even a wound, which paradoxically makes everyday reality the locus of “love and praise”.

Keywords: wonder, miracle, epistemology, the saturated phenomenon, the Incarnation

The recent resurgence of philosophical considerations on the subject of the wondrous  –undoubtedly rooted in Martin Heidegger’s reassessment of the concepts of wonder  – reveals the ambivalence of this phenomenon. On the one hand, the term “wonder” entails the sense of curiosity that drives us to move relentlessly further and further with...

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