Representations of Christianity in the works of John Berryman
This thesis describes the representation of Christianity in the writings of John Berryman-his struggle with the faith being the most central and incessant preoccupation of his verse. Focussing on each major stage of his artistic development in tum, I demonstrate how its depiction is influenced by biographical factors, his scholarship and sources, and his evolving poetic style. In The Dispossessed the issue of faith is evident, but obscured; however, much of his unpublished verse of the period is characterised by a more transparent confessional idiom, frequently expressing his dilemma of conscience over the question of religious commitment. His failure to develop an effective poetic voice is the main reason why his religious poetry of the 1930s and 1940s remained in the private sphere. He achieved his stylistic breakthrough with Berryman's Sonnets, where the struggle with his conscience is depicted as a religious conflict, in which his adultery means a confrontation with the Law of God. Homage to Mistress Bradstreet features a more developed representation of a similar conflict; the two alternative life choices before him are personified in the characters of Anne Bradstreet and the 'poet'. Difficulties of faith continue to play a major role in The Dream Songs, where the poet, adopting the persona of Henry, directly confronts God and Christianity with the problem of evil and the historical quest for Jesus. His poetry portrays a perceived conflict between faith and reason, and an intellectual pursuit for the truth epitomised by his poem 'The Search'. However, the poet's 'conversion experience' during the composition of Love & Fame is depicted as a response to the direct intervention of God in his life. His subsequent devotional poetry is dominated by his new sense of relationship with the' God of Rescue', who increasingly becomes associated with the full Christian conception of Jesus Christ the Saviour.