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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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Impersonal Beings, or Personal Thresholds of Incarnated Wonder? An Examination of the Beloved Women of Bonnefoy, Dante and Yeats in the Light of Maurice Blanchot’s “The Gaze of Orpheus”


Abstract: The poets Yeats, Bonnefoy, and Dante differ in their treatment of their beloved women. Yeats’ Maude Gonne never becomes more than a projection of his desires: in Marion’s terms, an idol. Bonnefoy’s Douve and Dante’s Beatrice, however, become icons, divine sources of struggle, as in Chrétien’s view of the individual’s attempt to pray.

Keywords: epiphany, nature poetry, lyrical speaker, Romanticism, modernism

How might the beloved women of Yeats, Bonnefoy and Dante become thresholds of wonder, openings to divine presence? Perhaps we find in them a moral or spiritual perfection which encourages us to seek for an intuition of divine grace; or perhaps they are like angels who minister to the sublunary world. The beloved woman in Bonnefoy’s Du mouvement et de l’immobilité de Douve (1953), along with Dante’s Beatrice and Yeats’ Maud Gonne, seem to be spiritual muses for their respective poets, but perhaps they are also women who incarnate some aspect of the divine. A common-sense reading might say that Yeats, Bonnefoy and Dante love particular women, not God (unless in a different way), so how might these women become conduits of the divine? Indeed, one might even imagine Maud Gonne sulking beautifully at the portals of Purgatory, indignant that Yeats has forsaken her for the Christian God in whom he claimed not to believe. I want to argue that Douve and Beatrice (but not Maud Gonne) do act as such portals to divine wonder, but it is by dint of...

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