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In Wonder, Love and Praise

Approaches to Poetry, Theology and Philosophy


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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Wonder and Desire in the Dialogue Between Theology and Literature


[The Books of the Bible] could be read as a search for meaning

Levinas, Qui êtes-vous?

Abstract: This essay uses the philosophical perspective of Emmanuel Levinas in a consideration of the relationship between the categories of wonder, desire and God. This relationship is present with particular emphasis, both in Greek culture and in biblical literature, in the path from desire – as the beginning of thought – to action.

Keywords: theology and literature, wonder and desire, Levinas, Greek culture, biblical literature

The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how the manifestation of wonder is present with particular emphasis in the history of thought, whether in the perception of thinking as such in Greek culture, or in the path from desire to action, as in biblical literature. The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas was the first to distinguish a radical reorientation of meaning in each of these. In order to show this, I propose to analyse the relationship between the categories of wonder and desire recognised in Greek culture, and the Levinasian view of them. I also wish to identify possible points of contact between Greek theology and biblical literature.

1 Wonder in Greek Culture

In Theaetetus, Plato presents wonder as a philosophical principle, that is, the beginning of one’s desire to think, expressed in ‘admiration’ or ‘astonishment’ (thaumazein). Myth is already seen as a response to wonder, a fictional narrative about the origin of things. Moreover, Plato himself takes...

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