The Poets' Jesus: Representations at the End of a Millennium

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Through the millennia, poets have been the medium through which a culture talks of, and to, its gods. Now, in this learned but lively commentary, Peggy Rosenthal shows us the astonishing range of poetic encounters with the figure of Jesus. Beginning with a reappraisal of Jesus as a poetic subject from biblical times through the eighteenth century, Rosenthal encounters along the way the work of such canonical writers as Dante, John of the Cross, and Milton, and also makes several fascinating detours, including a look at the work of a group of seventeenth-century Chinese poets.

The real emphasis of this study, though, lies in the poetic engagements with Jesus from the Romantic era onward. With insight and breathtaking scope, Rosenthal surveys the imaging of Jesus as Romantic hero by Blake and Whitman; the denigration of Jesus in the work of such proto-modernist writers as Baudelaire, and Borges' and other post-moderns' figurations of Jesus as anti-hero. Finally, Rosenthal examines Jesus' position today as a source of serious poetic inspiration among many poets worldwide.

From investigations of Rilke to Levertov, Milosz to N. Scott Momaday, Auden to Annie Dillard, the Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario to the Korean Ku Sang, the Arabic world to the negritude movement of the African diaspora, The Poets' Jesus superbly shows how poets' fascination with the man from Nazareth transcends all barriers. It also demonstrates that, despite the twentieth century's self-definition as a secular and post-Christian epoch, it has produced poetry about Jesus of truly surprising quality and variety. The first study of its kind in over fifty years, this is a remarkable survey aimed at scholar and general poetry reader alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[The Poets' Jesus] is a short, reader-friendly account of how poets have rendered Jesus, primarily from the 19th century to the present. This book is also, in passing, a swift overview of the last two centuries of Christian theology and Western culture." —Peter Steinfels, The New York Times

"Rosenthal's range is ambitious.... [Her] arguments are convincing, her examples compelling and her knowledge of contemporary poets impressive. Her clear prose style and her avoidance of the distancing parlance of current literary theory make this a valuable study not only for the scholar of literature but for the general reader who would like to see the old familiars in a fresh context and, in the process, be introduced to new and provocative images of Jesus."—Christian Century

"As I read the book, I rejoiced, I bounced in my steps, I flung out hosannas.... With a keen sense of each poet's intellectual and theological context, Rosenthal not only probes the religious imagination but also studies—from obviously fresh sources—the history of theology and the history of belief.... The Poets' Jesus is brilliant in taking two limited areas—poetry and the figure of Jesus—and turning their intersection into a grand survey of intellectual history and the history of belief.... The subtitle is apt; for reading, for thinking, even for meditating, The Poets' Jesus is a millennial book."—Joseph J. Feeney, America

"[The Poets' Jesus] engagingly proceeds more like a Cook's tour than an academic inquiry. Rosenthal has many of the qualities that one wants in a tour guide: she is... well informed...; she is articulate; and she loves her subject.... [In] the figure of Jesus in mid and late twentieth-century world poetry...especially, she is an engaging, stimulating guide."—Christianity and Literature

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195151640
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Peggy Rosenthal has taught courses on poetry and spirituality at St. Bernards Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology and at Wheaton College. Her previous books include Words and Values and Divine Inspiration.

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Table of Contents

1 Jesus as Christ and More: The First Eighteen Centuries 3
2 Jesus as Romantic Hero 23
3 Sliding into Modernism: Jesus Pale and Shrunken 50
4 Crisis of the Secularized West: Postmodernism's Jesus as Antihero 69
5 Crucified Africa: The Politicized Jesus of Africa and Beyond 84
6 Archetypal Christ: Arabic Poetry and Other Wastelands 101
7 Jesus Absent 112
8 Between Absence and Presence: Playing Around with Jesus 136
9 Jesus Present 151
Notes 174
Permissions Acknowledgments 183
Notes on the Artists 184
Index 185
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