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Religious Imaginaries

Religious Imaginaries: The Liturgical and Poetic Practices of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Adelaide Procter

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Ohio University Press
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    Religious Imaginaries
    Book Description:

    Religious Imaginariesexplores liturgical practice as formative for how three Victorian women poets imagined the world and their place in it and, consequently, for how they developed their creative and critical religious poetics. In doing so, this new study rethinks several assumptions in the field: that Victorian women's faith commitments tend to limit creativity; that the contours of church experiences matter little for understanding religious poetry; and that gender is more significant than liturgy in shaping women's religious poetry.Exploring the import of bodily experience for spiritual, emotional, and cognitive forms of knowing, Karen Dieleman explains and clarifies the deep orientations of different strands of nineteenth-century Christianity, such as Congregationalism's high regard for verbal proclamation, Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism's valuation of manifestation, and revivalist Roman Catholicism's recuperation of an affective aesthetic. Looking specifically at Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Adelaide Procter as astute participants in their chosen strands of Christianity, Dieleman reveals the subtle textures of these women's religious poetry: the different voices, genres, and aesthetics they create in response to their worship experiences. Part recuperation, part reinterpretation, Dieleman's readings highlight each poet's innovative religious poetics.Dieleman devotes two chapters to each of the three poets: the first chapter in each pair delineates the poet's denominational practices and commitments; the second reads the corresponding poetry.Religious Imaginarieshas appeal for scholars of Victorian literary criticism and scholars of Victorian religion, supporting its theoretical paradigm by digging deeply into primary sources associated with the actual churches in which the poets worshipped, detailing not only the liturgical practices but also the architectural environments that influenced the worshipper's formation. By going far beyond descriptions of various doctrinal positions, this research significantly deepens our critical understanding of Victorian Christianity and the culture it influenced.

    eISBN: 978-0-8214-4434-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-22)

    As Samuel Palmer recognized already in 1812, nineteenth-century Christianity in England was both united and divided.¹ Though Christian churches held most of the central teachings of Christianity in common, they diverged significantly in polity, theology, and liturgy. For the ordinary churchgoing Christian, denominational divergence emerged most obviously not in theological discussions, seminary debates, or circulated writings but in the public worship service, where communal worship practices shaped and bespoke religious principle. True, the basic elements of Christian liturgy—Scripture reading, singing, prayer, sermon, sacrament—appeared in almost all worship services, of whatever denomination; but as Palmer points out, how these...

  6. CHAPTER ONE TRUTH AND LOVE ANCHORED IN THE WORD Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Religious Imaginary
    (pp. 23-60)

    Because Barrett Browning’s connection to Congregationalism in her adult life has been under-recognized to date, this chapter necessarily begins with remapping the poet’s postmarriage religious commitments. Though somewhat preliminary to the main argument of the chapter, the opening pages resituate Barrett Browning within—or at least close to—a church group that has mistakenly been judged in its midcentury character by the theology and practice of an earlier time. The mistake matters for literary studies because it has marred our perception of the importance of religion to arguably the most important woman poet of the period. Certain of Barrett Browning’s...

  7. CHAPTER TWO “TRUTH IN RELATION, PERCEIVED IN EMOTION” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Religious Poetics
    (pp. 61-99)

    In 1845, Barrett gave her definition of poetry to another prominent woman poet of the day, Sara Coleridge, as follows: “Would you agree to such a definition of poetry as this?Truth in relation, perceived in emotion?I think that if I had to try at a definition, or at my idea of a definition, I might put it so. I have often thought it” (BC, 10:168; original italics). Truth in relation, perceived in emotion: the phrases evoke Barrett’s earlier words that Truth apprehending and Love comprehending constituted her hope of a church; and the evocation underscores the deep bearing...

  8. CHAPTER THREE “THE BELOVED ANGLICAN CHURCH OF MY BAPTISM” Christina Rossetti’s Religious Imaginary
    (pp. 100-136)

    To turn from nineteenth-century Congregationalism to Anglicanism, and especially Anglo-Catholicism, is in many ways to turn from what David Tracy, working from Paul Ricoeur, calls proclamation to what he calls manifestation, or from a dialectical toward an analogical imagination and language.¹ Congregationalism, we have seen, grounds the Christ-event as a Word-event, thus calling Christians to witness to that central experience in further, often dialectical, word and action. Anglicanism historically also values proclamation, with Scripture and sermon integral to its liturgy; as Tracy points out, the Christian faith has historically held that “Jesus Christ is both the decisive word and the...

    (pp. 137-176)

    In moving from a consideration of Christina Rossetti’s religious imaginary as shaped within Anglican and Anglo-Catholic worship to a close reading of the religious poetry itself, this chapter focuses primarily on Rossetti’s last publication.Verses,published in 1893, one year before Rossetti’s death, is the poet’s only collection of solely religious poetry. I focus on it for two reasons. First, becauseVersesconcentrates on religious poetry, its liturgical associations emerge more clearly than in the shorter devotional sections or isolated religious poems scattered across other volumes; at the same time, sinceVersesis not a collection of newly written poems...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE “THE ONE DIVINE INFLUENCE AT WORK IN THE WORLD” Adelaide Procter’s Religious Imaginary
    (pp. 177-210)

    This chapter once again suggests that sustained practices have a powerful formative effect on how we imagine the world and our place in it and, consequently, on how we talk or write about it. As did Barrett Browning and Rossetti within their respective traditions, Adelaide Procter developed a poetic aesthetic and practice deeply informed by her worship. While the few critics to take up study of Procter’s poetry in recent years have noted Procter’s commitment to Roman Catholicism and its importance for her poetry, no one has thoroughly investigated the precise configurations of this Catholicism or considered it as generating...

    (pp. 211-253)

    In contrast to the long publishing careers of Barrett Browning and Rossetti, Adelaide Procter’s public poetic career spanned only nine years: it began in 1853 with a poem printed in Dickens’sHousehold Wordsand concluded in 1862 withA Chaplet of Verses,which Procter prepared as a fund-raiser for the Providence Row Night Refuge, a shelter for homeless women and children managed by the Sisters of Mercy.¹ The poetry published over this decade voices Procter’s Roman Catholic imaginary in different ways: sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly. Procter’s poetry of the earliest years after her conversion from Anglicanism does not yet manifest...

    (pp. 254-264)

    In his sermon entitled “Increase of Faith,” the Reverend James Stratten of Paddington Chapel identifies three avenues by which “conviction and enjoyment [are] realized in the mind.”¹ His identification of the senses as an inlet of knowledge is both Lockean and Romantic; his extended valuation of intellect is both Augustinian and Enlightenment-inflected; and his naming of faith as the third and greatest inlet of knowledge reaches as far back as the biblical proverb “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (where “fear” means reverence). Actually, not just the latter but all three “inlets of knowledge” are affirmed...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 265-292)
    (pp. 293-306)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 307-314)