Redemption in Poetry and Philosophy
Wordsworth, Kant, and the Making of the Post-Christian Imagination
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Baylor University Press
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...The current rash of books hostile to religious faith will one day be an interesting subject for some sociological analysis. They consistently suggest a view of religion which, if taken seriously, would also evacuate a number of other human systems of meaning, including quite a lot of what we unreflectively think of as science. That is, they treat religious belief almost as a solitary aberration in a field of human rationality...
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...Often the most pressing ethical question is not how to live, but how to go on living. The more famous question usually starts to present itself only after we have already been living for a while, and so have acquired moral burdens, debts, errors, senses of our own inadequacy or fallibility, occasions for shame or guilt. Those who know or think they know how to live are generally the ones (maybe the lucky ones) who are...
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...Most of the work on this book was made possible by a two-year research grant from the General Research Fund of the Hong Kong University Grants Committee. I am most grateful to the UGC for the grant and to the anonymous readers of the GRF proposal for their suggestions. During 2009 the University of Bologna and the Chinese University of Hong Kong kindly granted me, respectively, a senior ...
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...Suppose we think of redemption not in its rich and complex Christian sense, as a “buying back” of humanity from sin by a redeemer who is divine but must nevertheless, by God’s grace, still pay the price of his own very human life to save us all; but more broadly, in thinner, secular terms, as any kind of saving, cleansing, absolving, or restoring of the erring or transgressing human spirit by the making of some great personal sacrifice...
1. Concepts, Metaphors, and Wordsworth
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...In one form of thinking with language—let us call it poetry—moral life, the life of character, behavior, and value, of emotion and virtue, is primarily rendered metaphorically. In this form of thought (and its form is essential to it: meter in verse, for example, or rhetorical qualities in general, perform a distinctly metaphorical function), general moral terms or concepts such as courage, wisdom, envy, anger, patience, or pride, vital (in both senses) as they are in the development of character...
2. "Tintern Abbey”: Restoring the Soul
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...This chapter is an attempt to read “Tintern Abbey” by getting as close as possible to the limits of its own language and the reader’s forbearance. It seems to me that its most interesting aspects by far are emotional, moral, and spiritual, and that its historical, political, and ideological tendencies have been tracked down and hunted to extinction. An older and deeper sense of the poem, a long-neglected kind of response to its ways of disturbing us, needs reviving....
3. Spontaneity in Kant and Wordsworth
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...The search for conceptual redemption took another form in the most enduringly influential philosophical work of the era, indeed of modernity itself: Kant’s first Critique. “Tintern Abbey” is a story about a hollow core; about empty forms of good; about something far too deeply interfused; about a soul somehow given back only to itself; about flying from some dreadful but indescribable inner space; about the need to find concepts to fill this space; about recoiling from the human...
4. Wordsworth and Political Redemption I: Paradise
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...The notion of spontaneity represents a perennial but forlorn hope. The hope is that redemption will gush out of some unfathomable depth of the self and deliver us from evil, make us new and better, like a pure fountain welling up from some volcanic fissure at the bottom of the ocean, its source both within us and beyond us. such a thing is and yet is not a matter of our own will. This forlorn hope was really the first civilizational experience of the loss of faith: of living with that loss as a continuing presence, like a ghost limb...
5. Wordsworth and Political Redemption II: Paradise Lost
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...Wordsworth speculates that had he not been obliged by lack of funds to return to England in late 1792 he might have perished in the Terror, fighting for the lost vision of those lines, “A poet only to myself” (10.199). Instead he lived and became a poet, but he became the poet he did become because of these lines and what they represented for him...
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...Redemption is not the whole of Christianity, but it is a crucial part, supplying perhaps its definitive metaphor (“He died to save us all”). Wordsworth is only one voice in English Romanticism, but arguably its most influential (“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive”). There is much more to post-Enlightenment philosophy than Kant, but he more than anyone set its terms (“starry heavens above, moral law within”)...
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Page Count: 270
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: The Making of the Christian Imagination