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Title: 'Become as little children' : theological anthropologies of the child in the work of Thomas Traheme, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Schleiermacher and Charles Peguy
Author: Newey, Edmund
ISNI:       0000 0001 3443 2416
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis examines the theological anthropologies of the child implicit in the work of four writers in the modern period: Thomas Traherne, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Schleiermacher and Charles Peguy. It puts to each author two questions: '\Vho is the child?' and. '\Vhere is the child?' The first question shows that in none of these cases is the child principally a transcription from personal experience. Rather, he or she is a figure through whom to explore a particular understanding of the imago Dei in humankind. The second question sheds light on the wider cultural and theological context in which these understandings emerge and demonstrates the extent to which each author's wider thought is marked by his picture of the child. Taking account of newly-published manuscripts, the chapters on Traherne argue that his child is not merely a figure of innocence, but an icon of the whole human condition and a means to illustrate the centrality of theosis, humanity's redemptive participation in God, to his theology. Traherne sees the child as the imaginative centre from which to articulate an orthodox theological anthropology in the new idiom of the early modern era. The chapter on Rousseau focuses on his widely influential work, Emile 011 De nducatiol1. Rousseau's goal of a purely natural theology goes hand-in-hand with his isolation of the child Emile from both human culture and revealed religion, to be educated by nature alone. Despite his commitment to a form of Christian faith, Rousseau's exclusion of revelation deprives theology and anthropology of their previously interdependent integrity, attempts to split apart nature and culture, and exposes the child to new levels of adult manipulation. The chapters on Schleiermacher discuss the novella, Die lf7eihl1achtsjeier, showing how the child, Sofie, embodies the author's conception of freie Geselligkeif, the free response to fellow humans and to God that is held to be the essence of human life. I then trace the resemblances between the portrait of Sofie and the pattern of Schleiermacher's hermeneutical thought, indicating both the insights and the theological risks that follow from this analogy. Turning finally to Peguy, I investigate both the well-known image of the child as 'la petite esperance' in his poetry and the less familiar range of references to the child and childlikeness in his late prose works. I argue that, despite the dominance in French Catholicism of an anti-Modernist reverence for childhood innocence and his own occasional tendency to nostalgia, Peguy's child is best seen as a figure of the liturgical category of anamnesis, by which humanity is constantly called to renewal in relationship with the incarnate Christ. Tracing continuity and change through this series of figurings of the child, I show that the appeal to the child, far from being a naive move, has wide-ranging repercussions for each author's whole theological project. In conclusion, drawing on the work of Balthasar and Lacoste, I seek to indicate how a contemporary understanding of human existence before God can be fruitfully enriched by taking proper account of the child.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available