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Christian Poetry in the Post-Christian Day: Geoffrey Hill, R. S. Thomas, Elizabeth Jennings

Jean Ward

Despite Nietzsche’s predictions, Christianity has not faded away; Christianity and post-Christianity exist alongside each other in the Western world. But today’s Christian poet speaks to an audience that often has little understanding of the language, symbols and theological concepts that inform his or her work. This study looks selectively at the work of three poets, two grounded in the Anglican and one in the English Roman Catholic tradition, attempting to show how each has responded to this situation. Geoffrey Hill, R. S. Thomas and Elizabeth Jennings, each in different and inventive ways, draw on the rich resources of Christian culture, literary, liturgical, mystical and devotional, reaching far back into English tradition as well as outside it, and by implication revealing an element of regret at the consequences of the English Reformation.
The Author: A graduate of St Anne’s College, Oxford, Jean Ward taught English in Hertfordshire for ten years, including one year on exchange in the USA. Since 1988 she has lived in Poland. Her doctoral thesis on the Polish reception of T. S. Eliot was published in 2001. She is employed by the Institute of English of Gdańsk University.