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Identity, environment, and deity

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.

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the category ‘religious poetry’ towards what Thomas calls, in his ‘Introduction’ to The Penguin Book of Religious Verse (1963), the ‘imaginative representation’ of an ‘experience of ultimate reality’ (64). His religious poetry can be seen not merely as ‘devotional’ but as primarily exploratory of wider dimensions of the notion of deity, and, in particular, the relation of deity to human experiences of suffering, doubt, and despair. Such ‘reconfiguring’ constitutes one of Thomas’s major achievements. Through such reconfiguring he, more than any other recent, poet

in R. S. Thomas
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introduction 28/1/05 1:18 pm Page 1 Introduction Overview The themes of identity, environment, and deity treated in this book reflect the major preoccupations of R. S. Thomas’s life and work. My intention in the book has been to set out a detailed and comprehensive examination of these major themes as they occur across Thomas’s substantial oeuvre, while at the same time providing an expanded frame within which the considerable complexity of Thomas’s work can be more profitably explored. However, I want to stress throughout the book that these ‘categories

in R. S. Thomas
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personal God of relationship, Thomas emphasises the phrase chapter7 28/1/05 172 1:34 pm Page 172 Expanding deity as indicating that God is not a ‘being’ at all. This is important to an understanding of Thomas’s approach in these ‘via negativa’ poems. God, for Thomas, does become personal, but primarily in the sense of being non-anthropomorphic. While images of God become, for Thomas, radically interior and intimate, they remain images of a God of which, as he says, ‘personality is only one aspect’. Thomas states in the interview: we have been brought up on the

in R. S. Thomas
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emergence of applied science is an extension of the first. He suggests that humankind’s apprehension of its spiritual identity and source is most possible, most probable, within the context of the natural world as ongoing revelation. According to this position, humanity comes close to requiring nature for a true experience of self, as well as for a true experience of deity. The breaking of intimacy between humanity and nature which technology represents for the poet thus becomes both self-alienating and God-alienating, precluding a sense of integration and purpose whose

in R. S. Thomas
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The natural world

that ‘Thomas Aquinas believed that God revealed Himself according to the creature’s ability to receive Him. If He did this to R. S., He chose to do so through the medium of the world of nature’ (106). In the February 1991 South Bank Show devoted to his life and work, Thomas reiterates this sentiment, stating that ‘God chooses to reveal himself I suppose to people in different ways … He has evidently chosen to reveal himself to me through the natural world’. These statements by Thomas can be used as a working definition of ‘nature mysticism’: the experience of deity

in R. S. Thomas
Gender and nationalism in the early fiction of Flora Nwapa

, discard their sex roles, that they are able to enter a sphere where male authority has little effect. Nwapa’s Woman of the Lake deity in Idu and especially Efuru bears a strong resemblance to the water goddess Idemili described by Amadiume. In Amadiume’s account, women wield considerable power as the worshippers and representatives of this water spirit, also referred to as the Great Woman: ritual elites are based on her worship; successful market women are seen to be blessed by her.42 So too, in Nwapa, Uhamiri, the Woman of the Lake, is held in high regard, as are her

in Stories of women
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Association and distinction in politics and religion

because of a particular understanding of the collective identity which all shared. While his identity was shaped around solidarity with the deity, Luther was claiming to be an authoritative source of knowledge of what that deity's purposes or identity was. So having established identity through association in two directions, to the Christian church and to God, Luther then established a unique and distinguished position in relation to each. Luther's claim to solidarity with the Word of God was an instance of a recurrent presentation of religious identity where solidarity

in Cultivating political and public identity

dead. There is wariness and scepticism in their words: Seb.     Do I stand there? I never had a brother; Nor can there be that deity in my nature, Of here and every where. I had a sister, Whom the blind waves and surges have devour’d. Of charity, what kin are you to

in Reading Shakespeare’s mind
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see, to vital changes in both the production and reception of music. The ways in which this transformation relates to the development of some of the major directions in modern philosophy will form the focus of my investigation. Modern philosophy begins when the generally accepted basis upon which the world is interpreted ceases to be a deity whose pattern is assumed to have already been imprinted into the universe. The new philosophical task is therefore for human reason to establish its own legitimacy as the ground of truth. This transformation is prepared in the

in Aesthetics and subjectivity