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The Poetics of Mysticism


The development of Christian mysticism is deeply bound to poetics. This examination first considers Platonic poetry, Hebrew creation, and Christian kenosis as sources of poetic mysticism, before turning to an elaboration of the role of rhythm, language and the poetic imagination. The appraisal then considers the historical development of mystical poetry, beginning with early Christian reflection on the figurative and lyrical use of scriptural language to express a deep personal relationship with God. The development of vernacular mysticism, and its adoption of this scriptural model, is then explored through a detailed consideration of four mystical poets (Dante, Jacopone, Hadewijch and Angelus Silesius). The interaction of poetic form and spiritual content is elaborated throughout, with the aim of demonstrating how poetics allows the mystical writer to achieve a result for the reader otherwise not possible in discursive forms of communication.

Current condition: The chapter is now published in The Oxford Handbook to Mystical Theology LINK. I am pursuing further work on the poetics of Jacopone da Todi and Angelus Silesius.

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