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The Enclosure of an Open Mystery

Sacrament and Incarnation in the Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins, David Jones and Les Murray


Stephen McInerney

The similarities and differences between poetry and worship have intrigued writers since at least the nineteenth century, when John Keble declared that poetic symbols could almost partake of the nature of sacraments. Since then poets, philosophers and literary critics alike have evoked the terms ‘sacrament’ and ‘incarnation’ to make claims about art and poetry. Extending and challenging this critical tradition, this book explores the influence of sacramental belief on the works of three Roman Catholic poets: the nineteenth-century Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Anglo-Welsh artist David Jones and the Australian poet Les Murray. The author explores the idea that the incarnation and the sacraments embody both God’s immanence and God’s transcendence and argues that Hopkins, Jones and Murray all endeavour to enclose the ‘open mystery’ of the Divine while recognizing that it cannot be imprisoned. The volume sets their writings in conversation with each other’s, as well as with literary, philosophical and theological discourse. The result is a study that shows the wonders, the mysteries and the difficulties of the sacramental worldview and its central place in the writings of these three major Catholic poets.