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1. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 1
Kathryn E. Davis “[S]tupor non meno”: What Virgil Saw
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Dante’s Virgil is, according to Virgil, among the most hopeless souls in the Commedia. As he tells us himself, he and the other virtuous pagans in Limbo who lack baptism yet have not sinned live “sanza speme . . . in disio” (“without hope . . . in longing”). Virgil believes himself to be eternally damned, and he seems to have convinced everyone from Dante the pilgrim to Cato to Statius to almost all readers of Dante’s poem that he is right. This essay, however, will challenge the assumption that we must take Virgil’s hopeless self-assessment for granted as ultimate truth by exploring other possibilities which are opened up by Virgil’s disappearance in its immediate context. In Purgatorio 29, just before he makes his exit, Virgil stands face-to-face a scene of his own making remade on the banks of Lethe. When Virgil looks across this mystical river now flowing through Dante’s Eden, what does he see? And what might be the implications of his vision?
2. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 1
Stephen Mead Theater as Vision in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
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By his transformation and suggestive associations of the Christian and Pagan sources and influences in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare both revivifies the social message of Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians for his own age and creates a transformative theatre that closely aligns the “magic” of theatrical performance with the spiritual tenets of Christian salvation and community.
3. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 1
Terry W. Thompson “Touching Him”: The Doubting Thomas Subtext in M. R. James’s “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”
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Born the son of an Evangelical Anglican minister, Montague Rhodes James, "Monty" to family and friends, was arguably the best educated ghost story writer who ever lived: "He had all sorts of letters after his name." His tales, collected in four slim volumes, often touch upon, lightly for the most part, biblical motifs or themes. In his most celebrated horror tale, "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad," James alludes—subtly as was his wont—to the story of Thomas, the disciple who, "skeptical about the resurrection," demanded tangible proof of the event, an actual "touching," before he would deign to believe in the miraculous. In James's most famous effort in the supernatural genre, another doubting Thomas, in this case an arrogant disciple of modern science and its methods, demands the same proof, a "touching," before he will believe. And when that proof comes, it changes him forever just as it did "Thomas, one of the twelve."
4. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 1
Notes on Contributors
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5. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 4
Ed Block Friendship, Renunciation, and a Celebration of the Transcendent Self: Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop after One Hundred Years
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As Death Comes for the Archbishop approaches one hundred years of critical scrutiny, it still speaks to readers in much the same way it did in the 1920s. A critical response to early twentieth-century materialism and mendacity, the story of nineteenth-century New Mexico Archbishop Jean Marie Latour and his friend and Vicar, Fr. Joseph Vaillant affirms as it dramatizes friendship and renunciation while simultaneously celebrating the centrality of the transcendent self and the richness and value of lived personal experience.
6. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 4
Elizabeth Theresa Howe San Juan de la Cruz and the Cántico Espiritual: The Soul in Transit; the Mystic on the Move
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The predominant imagery of progress in western mystical writing usually describes some form of ascent. The Subida del monte Carmelo by San Juan de la Cruz certainly suggests the notion in Spanish mystical writing. While San Juan proffers ascent (subida) in the title of the commentary on “En una noche oscura,” the poem proper does not present a sense of verticality at all but, rather, an essentially horizontal passage from the “casa sosegada” to (re)union with the Lover in a static apotheosis described in the final strophes. Similarly, a paradoxical presentation of movement appears in the Cántico espiritual. This article considers San Juan’s use of verbs of movement, especially within the Cántico espiritual, as metaphors for the underlying mystical message he ascribes to his poem. It also demonstrates the presence of the same extended metaphor in other poems of his, including “En una noche oscura” and the “Llama de amor viva.
7. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 4
Bruce W. Young ‘Upon Such Sacrifices’: Atonement and Ethical Transcendence in King Lear
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Though the word "atonement" does not appear in King Lear, the concept is present, along with related ones, like sin, justice, redemption, and sacrifice. Like other plays, Lear alludes to various atonement theories, setting them in dramatic conflict or cooperation and subjecting some to critique. Besides revealing the inadequacy of models based on payment or punishment, the play reinterprets the sacrificial theory of atonement by presenting sacrifice (especially that of Cordelia) as gracious and redemptive self-offering, not as a punishment or payment that satisfies anger or offended honor. Though the play’s religious references, including to Christ, are pervasive, ultimately atonement takes place at a human level, in the healing of relationships and inner maladies. Yet such atonement involves what may be called “ethical transcendence,” a transcendence consisting not in an ascent beyond the human condition, but rather in the offering of oneself in relationship and service to others.
8. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 4
Samuel Hazo War as Pornography
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Pornography has been defined as sex separated from personality. In other words, life’s deepest need to express desire and affection and perpetuate the species is reduced to appetite and the satisfaction of appetite. War in many ways does the same. It depersonalizes killing by pitting stranger against stranger—uniformed or otherwise. Fatalities are reduced to numbers. Such killings are dignified by slogans (“Vietnamizing the Vietnamese” or “Operation Iraqi Freedom”),. Preparing troops for the killings in war is everything from oratory to close order drill, parades and honors. Denis de Rougemont in LOVE IIN THE WESTERN WORLD has even traced this to the legend of Tristan and Isolde in which Tristan chooses a military life to define his manhood after leaving Isolde. All of these manifestation and pretenses gloss over the brutality of war just as films, photographs and other promotions disguise pornography as mere excitement.
9. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 4
Notes on Contributors
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10. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 3
Brian Barbour The Crucifix and the Post: A Note on the Christian Theme in Gulliver’s Travels
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An unremarked major theme in Gulliver's Travels is, Why does Gulliver lose his Christian faith? In Part III he is a devout Anglican who unlike Dutch Calvinists will not disrespect the crucifix, even at the cost of not being allowed to return home. In Part IV he dismisses the crucifix as a "post," a thing "indifferent." What has happened is made clear in Chap. VII where Gulliver's reveals his parodic or inverted conversion to the ruling principle of the Houyhnhnms, that "Reason alone is sufficient to govern a rational creature." For Swift that disastrous alone is a grave error, linking the earlier errors of the Reformation - sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura - with the coming darkness of the Enlightenment. Gulliver's loss of faith is predictive of the next phase of European intellectual life.
11. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 3
J. Daniel Batt Do This in Remembrance of Me: Bits and Pieces in Re-membering the Body
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Written 136 years apart, Melville’s Moby Dick and Morrison’s Beloved explore the scriptural tension between the material and spiritual. Against two different American landscapes, each work explores incarnation as both manifestations of the divine and the Word given flesh—two uniquely separate functions. Throughout the stages of Queequeg’s and Baby Suggs life, and other characters, as well, the stages of archetypal incarnation are expressed amongst two distinct populations, similar first in their need for incarnated divinity. Ultimately, these incarnations ask us to see the divine in our physical bodies, now—new bodies for new Words.
12. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 3
Julie Ooms “A private holy spirit in small letters”: Sylvia Plath’s Secular-Age Religion
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Scholars regularly read Sylvia Plath biographically, but few have focused on her religious beliefs and their manifestation in her work. This essay explores Plath’s ideas about religion, and about Christianity in particular, as they are articulated in college papers, in her journals, and in her fiction. It argues, finally, that Plath’s wrestling with Christian religious ideas is that of the kind of “cross-pressured” believer characterized by Charles Taylor; she is a humanist atheist tempted by belief.
13. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 3
Notes on Contributors
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14. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
Geoffrey Reiter “New Knowledge of Lost Worlds”?: Edward Hitchcock’s “Sandstone Bird” and the Poetic Exploration of Science and Faith
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In contemporary academic circles, the fields of science, theology, and literature may be compartmentalized with relatively little interaction. However, such distinctions were less rigid in the early nineteenth century. One of the figures whose writings stretched across these disciplinary boundaries was Edward Hitchcock, a world-renowned geologist and president of Amherst College who also had extensive theological training. Now best-known among paleontologists for his discovery of fossil footprints in the Connecticut River Valley, Hitchcock made use of his considerable talents in an 1836 poem entitled “The Sandstone Bird.” This poem—often known to historians of science but little remarked among students of American literature—effectively uses formal verse to draw out theological dimensions to the prehistoric world conjured up by Hitchcock’s own paleontological discoveries.
15. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
Todd Copeland Learning to Be a Failure: Tropes of Transformation in James Wright’s The Branch Will Not Break
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Challenged by personal suffering and new influences, American poet James Wright dramatically changed the character of his poetry during the years between the respective publications of Saint Judas (1959) and The Branch Will Not Break (1963). The nature of this poetic evolution can be traced in Wright’s treatment of a few frequently employed images of transformation, specifically those involving blossoms and jewels—the energies of which are alternatingly embodied by the poet or found to be unavailable to him.
16. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
Robert Lance Snyder Confession Versus Collusion: Truth-Telling in John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field
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In Agent Running in the Field (2019), his final novel, John le Carré reprises elements of his post-Cold War critique of transnational espiocratic duplicity and collusion, while also emphasizing the moral imperative of principle-driven constancy and confession as an antidote to the pathology of infection he associates with contemporary geopolitics. His virtuosity in tackling this theme, one also addressed though differently in A Legacy of Spies (2017), validates fellow author Ian McEwan’s assessment that le Carré “will be remembered as perhaps the most significant novelist” of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in Britain.
17. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
David V. Urban Slender Self-Knowledge: Tragic Consequences and Redemptive Hope in Shakespeare’s King Lear and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
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This essay argues that King Lear’s tragedy is largely brought about by Lear’s lack of self-knowledge, a character defect that long precedes the foolish decisions he makes in King Lear’s opening scene and which precipitates his own death and the deaths of those he loves. Lear’s lack of self-knowledge encourages Shakespeare’s audience to have sympathy for Goneril and Regan and to recognize that Lear’s beautiful progress of redemption is mitigated by his failure to ever recognize his longstanding wrongdoing against his elder daughters. By contrast, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s humble choice to learn and be humbled by Darcy’s letter empowers Elizabeth to achieve self-knowledge at a youthful age even as it brings happiness and numerous redemptive benefits to herself and to those whom she loves.
18. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 2
Notes on Contributors
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19. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Craig Woelfel, Jayme Stayer Introduction: Modernism and the Turn to Religion
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This Introduction contextualizes the volume in modernist tensions between belief and unbelief, and subsequent debates about the nature of secularization. An opening moment considers Pound and Woolf’s rejection of T. S. Eliot’s religious conversion as emblematic of a “subtraction” theory of secularization, in which secularity and religious belief are taken as mutually exclusive horizons of understanding. Such thinking, it is argued, has precluded a more nuanced approach. Criticism has largely ignored more complex and fragmentary religious dimensions of modernist production; or, on the other hand, taken up religion only in the narrow and anachronistic sense of traditional Christianity. This volume attempts to explore the religious dimensions of modernism in a more modernist sense: taking modernist art as a critical liminal space for exploring new modes of religious experience in complex and resonant ways -- often in open rejection of traditional modes of faith, and in authors beyond the usual suspects.
20. Renascence: Volume > 73 > Issue: 1
Anderson Araujo After Many Gods: T. S. Eliot and the Nagging Question of Ezra Pound’s Beliefs
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In January 1928, The Dial published T. S. Eliot’s review of Personae: The Collected Poems of Ezra Pound (1926). Even as he acknowledges his indebtedness to his fellow American poet-critic, Eliot seems bewildered by Pound’s belief system, which in his estimation is a heady mix of mysticism, occultism, pseudoscience, and Confucianism. With a touch of exasperation, he ends the review by asking provocatively, “what does Mr. Pound believe?” Although he would never give an answer that Eliot would find satisfying, Pound would revisit the question time and again in his prose and poetry. In the process, he reveals more about his eccentric set of creeds than even Eliot might have bargained for. Striving to synthesize a range of philosophical and polytheistic traditions, Pound would cast off the Presbyterianism of his early youth. From the 1930s onward, his deepening affiliation with Italian Fascism and near-cultic devotion to Mussolini would add yet another layer to his spectrum of beliefs. With Eliot’s query in The Dial functioning as a recurring point of reference, this essay examines Pound’s religious beliefs as a shifting panoply of mythico-theological, aesthetic, and political ideas. The picture that emerges is as complex as it is difficult to pin down, blurring the boundaries of what constitutes “faith” itself.