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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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Epistemologies of Wonder: David Jones and Catherine Pickstock

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Abstract: David Jones’ poetic aesthetic depends on the understanding that things perceived through the senses both exist themselves and imply immaterial realities. The discussion elucidates these insights in relation to wonder, suggesting that Jones’ position is compatible with that of Catherine Pickstock, who also makes space for wonder as central in the human quest for knowledge.

Keywords: aesthetics, epistemology, language, Thomism, liturgy

David Jones and Catherine Pickstock are both explorers of the enchanted world, but in different ways, Jones through writing poetry, painting, drawing, and theorising on art, and Pickstock through her philosophical-theological analysis of language, liturgy and ontology. A fundamental principle informing the work of each is the idea that the transcendent lies behind, and supports the existence of, perceptible things in the world, and that things are signs of other things and of the transcendent. While Jones was not primarily a philosopher, he nevertheless made an important contribution to theory of art in the Thomist tradition, but this essay will argue that insights from Pickstock’s more fully articulated and all-encompassing theory can elucidate and complement Jones’ witness to his encounter with wonder in his theoretical writing and poetry. This essay will mainly discuss Jones’ essay “Art and Sacrament” and his liturgical poems The Anathemata (with its “Preface”) and “The Sleeping Lord”, whereas the sources for Pickstock’s concepts will be her studies After Writing and Repetition and Identity.

Jones’ thinking about art developed together with his poetic endeavour, as, when he...

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