Language of Poetry as a Form of Prayer: The Theo-Poetic Aesthetics of Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Grounded in the investigative tools of interpretation theory, theo-poetic aesthetics, and literary criticism, this book proposes and employs an interdisciplinary methodology for the analysis of poetic prayer tests, focusing upon the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Interspersed throughout the text are brief interchapters, which offer practical illustrations of the sort of transformative reading this work proposes.


“This book demonstrates well the kind of contribution that spirituality as a research discipline can make to both the living of and the understanding of the Christian religious experience. It helps to validate and explain what religious practitioners have always known, namely, that all of life experience is potentially the mediator of divine-human encounter.” – Sandra M. Schneiders, Professor Emerita of New Testament Studies and Christian Spirituality, Jesuit School of Theology and Graduate Theological Union

“McAloon’s approach allows us to rise to a new level of appropriation of poetic texts if we are willing. To use his words, it “unleash[es] the marvelous that is at the heart of the resonant in poetic prayer experience.” It goes beyond being “read” by the poem and being questioned by the poem (Gadamer’s hermeneutic) to being “ministered to” by the poem. The interpretive strategy he lays out so masterfully is both critical and existential.” - Dr. Maria Lichtmann, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Appalachian State University

“McAloon chooses a notoriously difficult lyricist on which to practice his hermeneutics of transformation—Gerald Manley Hopkins—and the result is a finely wrought three-stage reading of “To Seem a Stranger”.” - Catherine Gallagher, Eggers Professor of English Literature, University of California, Berkeley

People who would understand Gerald Manley Hopkins’s poetry better and pray better could do much worse than rereading it. They would do well to read [this work]. . . . with special help from Paul Ricoeur and Sandra Schneiders IHM, it illuminates writing, reading, praying, and the human lives involved, and the illumination goes back and forth. Four ingenious “interchapters” take special note of this.” - Review for Religious, A Journal of Catholic Spirituality

Table of Contents

Foreword by Sandra M. Schneiders, Professor Emerita
1. Prayer, Poetry, and the Academic Discipline
Interchapter A: Praying with Poetry, A Spiritual Direction Case Study
2. Paul Ricoeur’s Theory of Interpretation
Interchapter B: The World of the Poetic Prayer Text
3. Hopkins’ Theo-Poetic Aesthetics
Interchapter C: The World behind the Poetic Prayer Text
4. New Historicism and Literary Criticism
Interchapter D: The World before the Poetic Prayer Text
5. Conclusion: Poetry and Prayer

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