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Title: Literary and theological modernisms : Rainer Maria Rilke, T.S. Eliot, and Józef Wittlin
Author: Rzepa, Joanna M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5348 1194
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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My thesis investigates the relationship between literary modernism and modernist theology, discussing the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, T. S. Eliot, and Józef Wittlin in the context of the theological debates of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I aim to establish parallels between contemporary theologians’ and religious thinkers’ attempts to rethink Christianity’s place in modernity and the poetic explorations of similar issues in the works of Rilke, Eliot, and Wittlin. The first chapter of my thesis discusses the debates surrounding the so-called ‘Modernist crisis’ in the Roman Catholic Church, in which two different visions of Catholicism – the neo-scholastic orthodoxy and the progressive Modernism – came into conflict. In the following years, similar disputes took place in the Church of England and the American Presbyterian Church. Thinkers associated with the ‘Modernist’ understanding of Christianity considered it necessary to develop a new apologetic that would be capable of responding to contemporary philosophy and recent developments in psychology and science. They drew attention to the value of personal experience and individual conscience, began reclaiming the mystical traditions of the past, and became increasingly interested in the psychology of religious experience. In the three literary chapters of my thesis, I argue that the reconceptualisation of the relationship between the religious experience of contemporary Christians and the inherited doctrinal tradition – central to Modernist theologians’ attempts to reconcile Christianity with the critical project of modernity – is also at the heart of the poetic projects of Rilke, Eliot, and Wittlin. I argue that Rilke’s engagement with Orthodox iconography, Eliot’s investment in the search for the meaning of mystical experience and its relation to Christian dogma, and Wittlin’s reinterpretation of traditional hagiography are all attempts at reinterpreting medieval Christian traditions and reconceptualising their place in modernity. Their parallel poetic explorations of the relationship between Christianity and modernity, I argue, demonstrate the existence of a complex network of interactions and exchanges between theological and cultural modernisms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature ; PT Germanic literature