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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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The Burning Bush: The Wonder-full and Wonder-less in R. S. Thomas’ Poetry

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Abstract: Drawing on the thought of Jean-Luc Marion, this discussion focuses on the familiar narrative of Moses and the burning bush, which was a rich source of imagery for R. S. Thomas. In several of his poems, he directly refers to the Exodus story, either to discuss the human capacity for wonder or to show technology as an endeavour that destroys this capacity. Poetry’s task, in Thomas’s view, is to reconnect humankind with the sense of mystery.

Keywords: R. S. Thomas, wonder, burning bush, saturated phenomenon, mystery

To claim that a sense of wonder is a thread running through the entire biblical narrative is not a revelation in itself. In the Authorised Version (KJV) the word “wonder” or its derivatives occur more than one hundred and twenty times; its synonym “marvel” is used sixty times, and the word “miracle” nearly forty. One of the most powerful Old Testament stories of awe and wonder is the account of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3). Multi-layered in its structure, it was a rich source of imagery for R. S. Thomas, who, as he admitted, was fascinated with the “fantastic and mysterious side of God” (Price-Owen 92). The elements of the burning bush narrative may thus be traced in the poet-priest’s works and lead us to the threshold of wonder. In order to better understand the mechanisms of wonder, it may be helpful to refer to Jean-Luc Marion’s concepts of the saturated phenomenon and givenness. Saturated...

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