A More Beautiful Question
The Spiritual in Poetry and Art
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Missouri Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
Regarding such matters as philosophy, theology, poetry, and art, the literary critic George Steiner once wrote: “I am convinced that one is infinitely privileged to be even a secondary attendant, commentator, instructor, or custodian in some reach of these high places.” ...
Toward the end of the twentieth century, the great Russian filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky proclaimed his credo that the calling of art is to express our “spiritual potential” and to oppose all that is “hopelessly materialistic” in present-day culture through the creation of images that express the human “aspiration towards the infinite.” The work of all artists worthy of the name, ...
1. Childhood, Transcendence, and Art
Curious though it may seem, the most illuminating way to begin a study of the spiritual uses of art in contemporary life is through an account of the historical “discovery” of transcendence. To make clear why this is the case, we must examine precisely what was entailed in that discovery, which, in turn, requires that we consider the most important common feature of all ancient ...
2. Spiritual Functions of Art
Any significant artwork gives a strong impression of integrated completeness. It presents us with a wholeness of content and form that is deeply satisfying. Whatever its subject matter—however specific or delimited or mundane this may be—its elements and structure together provoke in us a sense of self- containment and totality. In this way it reminds us, emotionally and...
3. Elemental Meaning and Gerard Manley Hopkins
An hour east of Seattle, in the heavily forested Cascade Mountains near Snoqualmie Pass, there is a short trail that leads from a side road off the freeway to a secluded clearing. In college days, friends and I used to make the drive from Seattle on sunny afternoons to sit and talk in this spot on the bank of a rushing stream called Denny’s Creek. On one such occasion, I became ...
4. Emily Dickinson and the Unknown God
Of American poets taught regularly in secondary education, the two most ill-served are Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Students are typically introduced to these poets through their most-anthologized poems, the majority of which are chosen in part for their accessibility—technically fluid and not too daunting conceptually—but also for a sort of charmingness, albeit in both ...
5. A Pattern of Timeless Moments: T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets
My first encounter with T. S. Eliot’s masterpiece, the poem-cycle Four Quartets, took place when I was twenty years old. The conditions were unusually felicitous. I was visiting family friends in southeast England, and during a period when my host family was away for a few days, I noticed a BBC program announcement in the newspaper. That evening there was to be a broadcast of ...
6. Art and Spiritual Growth
The previous three chapters on Hopkins, Dickinson, and Eliot were devoted to closely investigating how each author used the art of poetry to express the nature and meaning of profound spiritual experiences and insights. For each poet, art was a means of discovering, articulating, and communicating what it means to be a creature consciously participating in a human drama grounded ...
Art serves many purposes. In our casual living, it entertains and relaxes us, comforts, humors, moves, and inspires us. But always, whether in its more trivial or its more serious and ambitious forms, it reveals to us possibilities of perceiving, feeling, thinking, and acting; communicates emotion in an immediate, elemental fashion; and at least indirectly reminds us of the many uses of ...
Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2011
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