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on 17 September 2001
Paul Fiddes demonstrates a rare ability to apply current theological thinking to contemporary literature. He reads Moltmann alongside T. S. Eliot, Paul Ricoeur with King Lear, Pannenberg for Martin Amis. He engages both sympathetically and critically with key writers in theology, philosophy, literary criticism and literature, in lucid prose which puts some of them to shame. Fiddes explores two premises. The first is that Christianity must be eschatologically oriented (thank you, Barth). The second is that literary endeavour (both the creative act and the creation itself) has an abiding interest in eschatological questions. Death, the direction of time, the shape of history, the immortality of the soul, and the strength of human hope are pervasive themes in literature and theology. Fiddes lets these two premises read each other, with a bias towards the theological (which I believe is valid, especially coming from an Oxford Professor of Theology) without undermining the importance of the literature. This sophisticated and satisfying work will ensure that the interest in the 'sense of an Ending' (Frank Kermode's phrase) in the fields of theology and literature survives long beyond the publishing exigency that is the new millennium. It represents one of the best efforts so far from a growing number of scholars who are seeing that eschatology provides a more comprehensive way of understanding human creativity than do a range of other doctrines (including the doctrine of creation itself). Recommended for anyone working out how to think theologically about the arts.
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