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together by participation in the Word on a pilgrimage that awaits the eschatological fulfilment of arrival in Canterbury, that stand-in for the heavenly Jerusalem. Chaucer, as G. K. Chesterton saw clearly, shares Dante’s mystical, participatory orientation to the beatific vision. My concern is both that Chaucer be available for participatory reassessment and that McDermott may inadvertently be reinscribing a binary that undermines his project. On the one hand, the author benefits from and extends a profoundly important development in the last 30 years that accentuates vernacular theology (in its various forms of expression) and the recovery of non-Chaucerian, non- ‘‘laureate’’ literature in the late medieval and early modern periods in England. He is right, I think, to want to describe much of this literary environment in terms of tropologies and of participatory ontology more generally. Yet it might be easy for some to limit the implications of his analysis to those poets and dramatists (and critics) who engage in exegesis or seem explicitly to place themselves in the Christian narrative. It might be easy, for those interested in limiting the implications of McDermott’s analysis, to fail to reckon with the implications of sacramental ontology for the categories with which materialists have historically elevated certain literary, social, and political commitments. Participatory ontology focused on the heart, the Scriptures, and the sacraments as sites of participation (189) has implications for the whole of reality and all of our categories. This is something Christian rhetoricians, theologians, ethicists, and artists contributing to ‘‘the making of the Christian imagination’’ (as a recent book series puts it) have always recognized. McDermott’s lively, ambitious, and courageous book stands in a great tradition. Norm Klassen St. Jerome’s University Imitatio Christi: The Poetics of Piety in Early Modern England. By Nandra Perry, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-26803841 -0. Pp. viii + 280. $32. In this stimulating study, Nandra Perry argues that in early modern English texts, the act of imitation ‘‘is always, even if at some remove, a religious project, a tribute to and (partial) rehabilitation of humanity’s original creation in the image and likeness of God’’ (3). She traces the origins of this attitude to the Christian humanism of Erasmus, for whom imitatio figured as a ‘‘sacred exercise in improvisation’’ (7), both sound pedagogical practice and spiritual discipline. Despite the countervailing influence of John Calvin’s bleak view of human nature, this kind of ‘‘epistemic optimism’’ about language’s spiritual potential ultimately proved attractive to a wide spectrum of Protestant thinkers through the writings of Philip Melanchthon, becoming the foundation of a ‘‘moderate, moralizing vision of good imitatio and Protestant orthodoxy’’ that was shared especially 546 Christianity & Literature 66(3) within the literary orbit of Sir Philip Sidney (8). Alongside scholars like Brian Cummings, Debora Shuger, and Robert Stillman, Professor Perry aims to take part in ‘‘the project of reconsidering the Renaissance, Reformation, and CounterReformation as a single, inherently ‘literary’ phenomenon’’ (15), and her method is the case study, exploring four concatenations of texts variously united by social, biographical, or thematic links. In the first chapter, she develops a suggestive diptych by juxtaposing the clergyman Thomas Rogers’s 1580 translation of Thomas à Kempis’s late medieval devotional treatise Imitatio Christi with Sidney’s contemporaneous Defense of Poetry. While historical connection between the two men is slight, she presents their contemporary texts as nodes in an ongoing cultural conversation about the proper use of language in service of the ‘‘religious/political/poetic art of transformation ’’ (19). In his free translation of Kempis, she finds, Rogers displaces the scene of spiritual imitatio from sacramental devotion to the individual’s inward encounter with Scripture. Rogers’s most striking change, the omission of Kempis’s fourth book, eliminates the concluding contemplation of the Eucharist as the satisfaction of the soul’s yearning for the divine. Instead, Rogers ‘‘establishes the sacred Word as the core of an ideal ‘self’ fashioned out of but undefiled by human language’’ (30). This, she argues, is essentially the ambition that animates the Defense: when Sidney praises poetry’s capacity to ‘‘make many Cyruses’’ through the emulation of virtuous...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 546-549
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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