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Breaking the Silence

Poetry and the Kenotic Word


Malgorzata Grzegorzewska, Jean Ward and Mark Burrows

This book of essays on poetic speech, viewed in a literary-critical, theological and philosophical light, explores the connections and disconnections between vulnerable human words, so often burdened with doubt and pain, and the ultimate kenosis of the divine Word on the Cross. An introductory discussion of language and prayer is followed by reflections linking poetry with religious experience and theology, especially apophatic, and questioning the ability of language to reach out beyond itself. The central section foregrounds the motif of the suffering flesh, while the final section, including essays on seventeenth-century English metaphysical poetry and several of the great poets of the twentieth century, is devoted to the sounds and rhythms which give a poem its own kind of «body».
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The Embodied “I”, the Suffering “I” in the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins


Gerard Manley Hopkins’s insightful understanding of the dogma of the Incarnation informs the very form and texture of his poetic works. This can be seen, for instance, in his daring experiments with sprung rhythm, his sophisticated word-play, his ingenious adoption of the Welsh cynghanedd and the countless neologisms which he coined for the needs of his poems. His journals and letters to his friends also reveal both a great interest in the “substance” of language and a fascination with the material world, as well as a genuine amazement in nature. In this article I shall attempt to read Hopkins’s focus on the Word made flesh from the perspective of contemporary post-phenomenology, with particular emphasis on the work of Michel Henry and his interpretation of the enfleshment of the divine Logos. I shall also be interested in the ways human suffering can be expressed in language, as the poetry of G. M. Hopkins affords a rare example of the putting into words of seemingly inexpressible and incommunicable experience: the experience of the embodied subject, afflicted by pain, anguish and loneliness.

Striving to abolish Cartesian dualism, post-phenomenologists stress the superior role of the flesh in talking about the human subject. The flesh, Jean-Luc Marion contends, is “that which gives me to myself” (99). As the title of Henry’s book L’amour les yeux fermes indicates, post-phenomenologists start by turning away from the external world and postulate a return to reflection on the human body and the flesh in order...

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