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Reading, Desire, and the Eucharist in Early Modern Religious Poetry

Reading, Desire, and the Eucharist in Early Modern Religious Poetry

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Reading, Desire, and the Eucharist in Early Modern Religious Poetry
    Book Description:

    Reading, Desire, and the Eucharistanalyzes the work of prominent early modern writers-including John Milton, Richard Crashaw, John Donne, and George Herbert-whose religious poetry presented parallels between sacramental desire and the act of understanding written texts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9492-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Desiring Sacraments and Reading Real Presence in Seventeenth-Century Religious Poetry
    (pp. 3-22)

    How does one desire a God that one does not lack? Seventeenth-century religious verse obsesses over the appropriate approach to an immanent divinity, the affective and conceptual responses to God’s presence specific to religious desire. Once God is present and one is no longer wishing for or awaiting his arrival, there remains much to do. English devotional lyrics, from poets as theologically and poetically distinct as John Milton, Richard Crashaw, John Donne, and George Herbert, explore not just the preparations and predispositions necessary for a proper communion, but also the manner and practice of desiring God: not just what one...

  5. 1 Take and Taste‚ Take and Read: Desiring‚ Reading‚ and Taking Presence in George Herbert’s The Temple
    (pp. 23-65)

    Take and eat. Take and taste. Take and read. George Herbert’s verse obsesses over the permutations in this sequence. Yet his are not simply concerns about the proper preparation for communion or the place of reading and sermons in the ceremony or preparation for it. Instead, Herbert is just as much concerned with this activity of ‘taking,’ or picking up, what it would mean to have God really and immanently at hand, but not treat him as a tool, to have God really present, and still desire him. A model of devotional desire in which the subject quests after a...

  6. 2 Reading Indistinction: Desire‚ Indistinguishability‚ and Metonymic Reading in Richard Crashaw’s Religious Lyrics
    (pp. 66-105)

    There is nothing perverse, grotesque, tasteless, or lurid about Richard Crashaw’s verse, despite the plethora of critical comments to the contrary and the curious critical obsession with opening essays by reproducing, if only to reject, precisely this litany of negative epithets. He is simply committed to a sacramental worldview that modern readers reject, or at least find difficult to conceptualize: namely, that transcendent and immanent domains, spiritual and material, signifier and signified are not just connected, but utterly indistinguishable. Yet for Crashaw this is not simply a matter of saying ‘both’ to questions about the relationship between the divine and...

  7. 3 Loving Fear: Affirmative Anxiety in John Donne’s Divine Poems
    (pp. 106-148)

    Devotional anxiety, anxiety in the presence of God, is not tense. This is the fundamental premise of Donne’s poetic devotions. Moreover, our task as readers and devotees is to transform a religious anxiety built on tension – the unpleasant irritation of need or desire, as well as this same irritability construed as pleasurable – into an affect that is commensurate with a generous and attentive love. This change in the emotion that fills religion is not a swapping out of fear for love, a simple substitution, but rather a transmutation of anxiety and fear themselves. Thus, Donne’s verse asks us to abandon...

  8. 4 Desiring What Has Already Happened: Reading Prolepsis and Immanence in John Milton’s Early Poems and Paradise Regained
    (pp. 149-189)

    How could one ever affirmatively desire a Protestant sacrament, particularly insofar as Reformed religion is often imagined as a reactive, negating force that undermines sacramental presence and replaces it with mere signification?¹ Or to put it more pointedly, how could one desire a sign? In Milton’s poetry the attractions of Reformed religion revolve around a desire that immediately and immanently contains, and does not simply prefigure or herald, its own consummation. The sacrament appears not as the material or spiritual manifestation of the body of Christ, but rather as an odd teleological holism, where incipient events unfold according to a...

  9. Conclusion: Reading Is Love
    (pp. 190-206)

    To assert that reading is love, let alone to argue for such a claim, runs the risk of evoking the wishiest and washiest mysticisms and sounds dangerously similar to rhapsodies about the power of the lyric. As I have tried to indicate throughout this study, however, I do not think that these poets, or my reading of them, tie verse to a mysterious, or not so mysterious, transcendent realm. In attempting to show how seventeenth-century religious lyrics resist and evade interpretation as an end, this study does not serve as a prelude to an assault on literary criticism, in its...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 207-262)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-278)
  12. Index
    (pp. 279-287)