Controversial poet Ronald Stuart Thomas was considered to be one of the leading writers of the twentieth century. This book, in three parts, interprets the development of a major theme over Thomas's twenty-seven volumes, probing particular themes and poems with a meticulous insight. The themes of identity, environment, and deity treated reflect the major preoccupations of his life and work. The book presents a comprehensive examination of these major themes as they occur across Thomas's substantial oeuvre, while providing an expanded frame within which the considerable complexity of Thomas's work can be explored. It suggests that such poetic explorations and revelations of identity provide the prima materia of the poetry and form an underlying foundation to Thomas's poetry viewed as a single body of work. Thomas's treatment of the natural world, in particular the theology of nature mysticism vital to much of his work, is then discussed. The book also looks closely at Thomas's increasing preoccupation with science. It explores his philosophical concern with a scientific register for poetry, his own experimentation with that register, his subtle ambivalence towards applied technology, his ongoing critique of 'the machine', and his view of modern physics. Finally, examining Thomas's 'religious poetry', the book re-focuses on the exact nature of his poetic approach to a 'theology of experience' as reflected in his 'mythic' and 'via negativa' modes. It highlights Thomas's 'reconfiguring' of theology, that is, his insistence on the central validity and importance of individual spiritual experience, both as absence and as presence.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book treats the themes of identity, environment, and deity that reflect the major preoccupations of R. S. Thomas's life and work. It sets out a detailed and comprehensive examination of these major themes as they occur across Thomas's substantial oeuvre. While at the same time of the examination of major themes, the book provides an expanded frame within which the considerable complexity of Thomas's work can be more profitably explored. It argues that underpinning Thomas's oeuvre is a 'project' in autobiography which is rooted in the question of the poet's own elusive identities. The book explores Thomas's treatment of the natural world, in particular the theology of nature mysticism vital to much of his work. It reveals an often-underestimated intellectual breadth and sophistication in Thomas's philosophical grounding and poetic experimentation.