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Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination (Ashgate Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts) Paperback – 28 Mar 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (28 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140944936X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409449362
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Malcolm Guite, in this wide-ranging and original study, helps us see how poetry is - if we let ourselves be drawn in and shaped by it - a means of making connections with the fundamental way things are, and so too a way of connecting with a God who is himself a pattern of 'connection' as Trinity, open to share the divine reality with created life. Here are materials for a profound theology of the imagination, developed in dialogue with writers both familiar and unfamiliar, beautifully combining close reading with wide horizons.' The Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams 'No one with an interest in the history of poetry inspired by the Christian Faith can fail to be impressed with this book. Malcolm Guite has offered us an immensely rich work, ranging from the 8th Century Dream of the Rood, to Seamus Heaney via Shakespeare, John Davies, John Donne and George Herbert, in which the truth-telling available only in poetry is brought into the service of mature theological vision. It is quite simply both astounding and outstanding.' The Rt Revd Professor Stephen Sykes 'Malcolm Guite has the rare gift of being able to open up the depths of poetry and theology together. He is alert to form, content and context, and above all to the nuances of poetic visions of God, the complexities of faith, and spiritual transformations.' David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK 'To enter Malcolm Guite's Faith, Hope & Poetry is to discover a new continent with dazzling possibilities, a landscape where scholarship, vivid faith, word craft, imaginative insight, reflection and careful research are all available at a level that is revelatory to both academics and lay readers alike. Guite, not only an ordained Anglican priest but a poet and scholar of the highest order, invites us to this fresh feast - a summons that will widen our own worlds immeasurably.' Luci Shaw, Author, Harvesting Fog: Poems; Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit 'For a lover of poetry it is a feast, for someone intrigued by poetry and theology, it is indeed a landmark work... there's something extraordinary about the freshness of his readings of such statuesque figures of the English literary tradition.' Transitions 'This book leaves the reader in no doubt as to the fruitfulness of poetry for theology. It is both a stimulating study for academic and a delightfully nourishing read for anyone with an interest in Christianity and the arts.' Theology '[Faith, Hope and Poetry] carries a compelling vision, worked out in dialogue with great poetry from across the span of English literature, of 'imaginative shaping and symbolic apprehension in the discovery of meaning and [...] truth'.' Journal of Theological Studies 'Malcolm Guite offers a welcome challenge to the division of 'two cultures' as discerned by C.P.Snow and the dissociation of 'sensibility' as identified by T.S.Eliot.' Heythrop Journal 'Faith, Hope and Poetry is an essential book for anyone hoping to work with literature as a mode of apologetics - an endeavor which is critical for evangelism in our postmodern, often post-Christian culture. The book's importance for literary apologetics is twofold. First, it is a compelling argument for the importance of Imagination in the pursuit of Truth; Guite helps us see clearly and deeply how poetry allows us to know truth in a different but complementary way to propositional, rational argument. Second, the specific close readings of the works provide a model for apologists of how to interact with poetry on poetry's terms, and thus enter into an imaginative experience of great power... Faith, Hope and Poetry is valuable not just for its specific insights, but also for its model of how to think, feel, and respond with both heart and mind as a Christian in the modern world.' Apologetics315 'Guite's method is to take the reader through a history of English religious poetry, with the aim of showing not merely that poetry has a natural theological bias, but that this theological or devotional content actually lies at the heart of the English poetic tradition.' Times Literary Supplement 'The express aim of this packed, rich and unusual book is to show that poetic imagination is truth-bearing and that this is valuable to theology... Malcolm Guite's book is a most compelling read, to Coleridgeans, and to Christians and non-Christians alike.' Coleridge Bulletin '... [a] thoroughly exceptional book; beautiful, engaging, and filled with striking insights... Guite does not argue his case so much as he demonstrates it, through careful and skilful readings of poetry. This is a particularly striking and attractive virtue of this lovely book... Faith, Hope and Poetry incarnates the best sort of theological engagement with the arts, one in which both theology and art are valued and given full play.' Image: Art, Faith, Mystery '... a delightful tour through some wonderful poetry. His book is both a challenge and an invitation, a delight and a dare.' Weblog 'A Wineskin in the Smoke' '... provide[s] some interesting material for reflection on the role of theological treatments of literary texts and the status of secularity such a theological discourse implies.' Literature and Theology 'Apart from personal reading (which I highly recommend), I can see a strong use for Faith, Hope and Poetry as a teaching resource... I could happily build a "theology and poetry" course around the entire text, confining myself pretty much to the poetry readings therein... Working patiently through these selections in seminar fashion with alert students would be a dream.' Christianity & Literature 'Faith, Hope and Poetry is an enjoyable book, laudably readable and accessible, and full of material for further reflection and discussion.' Notes and Queries 'In this book Malcolm Guite offers us three gifts: a lucid explanation of the role that the poetic imagination plays in resolving the bitter debate between science and theology inherited from the Enlightenment; a perceptive study of a selection of British poems written between the tenth and the twenty-first centuries that illustrate how the imagination offers 'the redress of an imbalance in our vision of the world and ourselves' (p.1); and an approach to understanding and experiencing those poems in the form of five suggestions for reading poetry deeply and perceptively.' Temenos Academy Review '...Guite's Faith,Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination should be read as not merely a delightful glimpse into a particular strain of poetry, but also as a clarion call for all Christian theologians to reclaim an essential way of knowing Christian truth.' Themelios

About the Author

Malcolm Guite is a poet, priest and academic living and working in Cambridge. His recent writings include ’What Do Christians Believe?' 2006, 'Poetry, Playfulness and Truth...’ a chapter on the theology of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest in Faithful Performances: Enacting Christian Tradition, ed. Trevor Hart and Stephen Guthrie Ashgate 2007 and six poems in Live Simply, 2008. His chapter on the poetry of CS Lewis appears in the Cambridge Companion to CS Lewis, 2010.


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This is one of the best books on this fast expanding field of theology and the arts. It is so many things: a profound work of theology, a beautiful introduction to poetry, and a deeply devotional work. This really deserves to become a spiritual classic. Malcolm brings his fine theological mind to bear on one of his great loves, poetry (the others being blues music, big motorbikes, and conversation). The result is the best book I have read in a long time. If you have any interest in theology, poetry, or life read it.
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I wish, this book had been written when I had been teaching Poetry as an English teacher. There were a number of writers who I valued, some bordered on the inspirational – and all of those were poets in their own right. I was given a sonnet by Malcolm Guite by a fellow scribbler, but wanted to get a sense of where this quietness evident in the sonnet, was coming from, and found this. It was as a breath of fresh air. Despite the fact that the positive reviews on the cover were by those with theological interests, this book is free of polemic. The introduction was incisive without being declamatory; the obvious erudition brought about by the best and most sure means of erudition – a love for the subject, came through, with a calm friendly assurance.

The first chapter, like all the following chapters, focuses on a particular poet and/or their work. This one was on the Anglo Saxon poem ‘The Dream of the Rood’. Of particular note were the comments about the opening word ‘Hwaet’, which means listen! A poem needs an audience to listen, and the writer comes from a background full if statements like ‘Those who have ears, let them hear.’ Like the prophet Isaiah who, for some reason I have no wish to analyse, I always find myself drawn to. Two points struck me; neither of which were commented on: the first that there are aural connotations with the word wait, and waiting is always subsumed in the concepts of faith and hope. The second was, that the first word that begins the first poem ‘The song of the Reed’ of Rumi’s Masnavi, is also the word listen; and it is also an imperative. The second chapter turns to two plays of Shakespeare and Guite would doubtless argue, and I would agree with him, that Shakespeare is first a poet, then a dramatist.
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I have worked through this amazing book, chapter by chapter, and have found stunning insights on virtually every page. Guite, both a theologian, literary scholar, and poet of great skill, takes us on a tour from the Middle Ages and the Dream of the Rood all the way to our contemporary, Seamus Heaney, with probing chapters on Shakespeare, Coleridge, and several others along the way.

The hypothetical general reader interested in ways faith and art can connect and mutually illuminate each other will find this a rich source. Both theologians and literary scholars could build courses around it; it's perfect for "theology and literature" or "religion and literature" courses. Guite has an amazing grasp of classical theology, the (British) literary tradition, and contemporary culture (the last named being the unspoken backdrop for the other two). Those familiar with him may know him as a college chaplain at Cambridge, the leader of a rock group, a dynamic speaker on the Inklings and poets like Blake and Coleridge, and a fan of American motorcyles. Few bring such varied resources/talents to the table. They vivify the contents of this remarkable book.
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Wonderful book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probing--Illuminating--Opens up new vistas 13 Dec. 2012
By Charles C. Twombly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have worked through this amazing book, chapter by chapter, and have found stunning insights on virtually every page. Guite, both a theologian, literary scholar, and poet of great skill, takes us on a tour from the Middle Ages and the Dream of the Rood all the way to our contemporary, Seamus Heaney, with probing chapters on Shakespeare, Coleridge, and several others along the way.

The hypothetical general reader interested in ways faith and art can connect and mutually illuminate each other will find this a rich source. Both theologians and literary scholars could build courses around it; it's perfect for "theology and literature" or "religion and literature" courses. Guite has an amazing grasp of classical theology, the (British) literary tradition, and contemporary culture (the last named being the unspoken backdrop for the other two). Those familiar with him may know him as a college chaplain at Cambridge, the leader of a rock group, a dynamic speaker on the Inklings and poets like Blake and Coleridge, and a fan of American motorcyles. Few bring such varied resources/talents to the table. They vivify the contents of this remarkable book.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Championing the Poetic Imagination 16 Feb. 2013
By Signpoststeve - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first time I read this book was like the first time hearing a great album of music. So many delights... so many unexpected turns... so many great pay-offs.

The second time, I found myself looking forward to certain sections, being dazzled by ones I missed the first time, and settling into the lovely, ambient air of Malcolm's poetic prose - itself a testament to the dictum, the medium is the message.

The third time was more absorbing than the first two. Now familiar, sitting longer with certain passages, and giving myself to the work rather than mining it for bankable insights.

Recently, I've taken to selecting chapters and passages in the same way I might select favorite songs according to mood and occasion, reading for sheer pleasure.

Handily challenging the dry, analytic, reductive and atomizing bluster of the Enlightenment's inordinate reason, Malcolm explores the "power of poetry to renew vision by transfiguring the ordinary, to reveal in 'utter visibility' that things are 'alive with what's invisible.'"

With a reverent mastery of material I've not encountered elsewhere, Malcolm first draws on the archaic Dream of the Rood through Shakespeare to the poetry of Sir John Davies, John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Milton, Coleridge, and on through Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, and Geoffrey Hill to the replenishing fountain that is the poetry of Seamus Heaney. Throughout, his purpose is to "vindicate the imagination and to rekindle our sense of the marvelous."

Like another reviewer has already said, I give this 5 stars because there isn't an option for 10.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is beautiful. This book is brilliant 30 Mar. 2015
By LittleL - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is beautiful. This book is brilliant.

Before I read this book, I did not know that I was stuck in a valley, able to see only my own little piece of time and space, thoroughly isolated by the ideas of my own time and unable to see how these ideas were a product of all the history of writing and thinking that have gone before me.

Malcolm Guite--priest, poet, scholar, and musician--beckoned me on a journey by explaining in the introduction the post-enlightenment split between rational and imaginative thought, which put the humanities at risk of seeming silly and obsolete. I'm one of many pilgrims to walk this planet who've found the humanities to be vital and life-giving, but I've never known how to defend my love for them against the rational rows of numbers and facts that are given so much credit today. And, of course, Guite uses poetry as the foundation of his thesis, focusing on a poem by Heaney which marvels at the rain stick and how a pipe of dried seeds can produce the sounds of lush water. This seeming paradox is referenced at every stage of the journey through Faith, Hope and Poetry.

Fortunately for me, Guite is an excellent tour guide out of my own shadowed valley and on to the mountain top where I can now see the lay of the land that surrounds me. Guite uses each chapter to heal the rift between reason and imagination by showing imaginative powers to be not just equal to but perhaps even superior to dead, inanimate, and shallow materialist explanations for the world. Each chapter catalogs the depths of beauty and meaning of poetry's most popular and enduring symbols (such as light and water) as Guite ushers in historical poets to express his gently unfolding thesis. By the end, he has skillfully <i>unwound</i> centuries of poetry chronologically while simultaneously <i>weaving together</i> the many complex ways different poets have used the same symbols across time and space. All of this serves to prove his thesis that imaginative powers are indeed necessary to understand the world. By the time I reached the mountaintop, I could see exactly what he saw and I agreed with every word.

This book is thorough and self-contained, and yet its ideas reach out to every poem everywhere. I'm at a loss to express how deeply this book moved me and how completely it transformed the way I think. Guite has given me confidence in the absolute necessity of poetry to hold together the seemingly disparate and to reveal the seemingly unknowable.

It isn't until the last page of the book that Guite finally comes out and says it: "A study of poetic imagination turns out to be a form of theology." I will read this book again. The question is how long I'll be able to wait to do it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 15 Aug. 2015
By David Berry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Profound.
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