Faith in Poetry


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction: Styling Faith 1. William Blake: Destabilized Particulars 2. Alfred Tennyson: Word Music 3. Christina G. Rossetti: Practically Perfect 4. Gerard M. Hopkins: Counter Stress 5. T. S. Eliot: Failing Better Index

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Explores the relationship between poetic form and religious belief through new readings of five canonical Western poets: William Blake, Christina Rossetti, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Alfred Tennyson and T.S. Eliot.

About the Author

Michael D. Hurley teaches English Literature at the University of Cambridge, where he is a University Lecturer and a Fellow of St Catharine’s College. He is the author of G. K. Chesterton (2012), co-author (with Michael O’Neill) of Poetic Form (2012), editor of the new Penguin Classics edition of The Complete Father Brown Stories, and co-editor (with Marcus Waithe) of Thinking Through Style: Non-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century (2017).


In five beautifully written and tightly argued case studies, Hurley...offers a truly fresh perspective...teasing out tensions, torsions, and transformations across lines of poetry, and performing the virtuoso close readings that constitute the core of each chapter. For all their intense attention to detail, however, these readings never feel claustral; rather, Hurley's richly textured arguments are well-situated within the scholarship and attentive to an array of primary sources. Nor do his chapters simply lurch from poem to poem: the rhythm of Hurley's prose is driven by constant qualification, self-reversal, and anticipated objection, which enliven the book's pace with energy and verve. Hurley's style also illustrates his faith in his audience — as well as his faith in criticism as such. In opting for the elegance of an essayistic style, Hurley trusts that his reader will follow the turns of his argument closely and carefully, as the individual features of each poet emerge.
*Religion & Literature*

Insightful, ingenious, and compelling, the book should be a welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in the intersection of religion and aesthetics ... Hurley discovers, or rediscovers, poems that have been covered up by generalities, whether the generalities of literary history or of various ideologies. Wiping clean the fogged mirror and dusting the lamp, he allows us to see again, or for the first time, the brilliance of poems dimmed by decades of accumulated opinion. In doing so, he returns us to the poets he has chosen -- Blake, Tennyson, Christina Rossetti and T. S. Eliot -- with fresh interest in their poems, and this certainly numbers among the highest accomplishments of literary criticism.
*The New Criterion*

Fascinatingly explores what the act of writing might itself bring about .... The book’s vital contribution is to examine, explore, and illuminate what such guidance might mean and how it might come to occur.
*Literature & Theology*

Among such recent scholarly recoveries concerning the dynamic interplay between literature and theology, Hurley's Faith in Poetry: Verse Style as a Mode of Religious Belief is a significant contribution ... An engaging and striking read. It blends rigorous and careful scholarship with a thoughtful treatment of religious poets as those who dare to believe in God and poetry.
*The Catholic Herald*

With chapters on Blake, Tennyson, Christina Rossetti, Hopkins and T. S. Eliot, Hurley’s captivating and arresting study of the theological implications of style, in the authors he reads and also his own writing, stakes out the productive possibilities of writing about Victorian poetry in a way that keeps both religious and literary forms firmly in the forefront of our thinking.
*Victorian Literature and Culture*

Faith in Poetry is the result of the author’s long immersion in the poetry and poetics, criticism, and social and religious history ... Hurley is able to engage these discourses in vital conversation ... A laudable contribution to recent reconsiderations of the ways in which verse stylistics not only were shaped by religion but also contributed to the reshaping of religion and the religious imagination in the long nineteenth century.
*Religion and the Arts*

This book offers a highly revisionary reading of English verse since the Romantics. Much of the greatest poetry of this period, it argues, has after all retained the paradoxical dual mark of distinctively poetic speech as both formal and inspired. Its originality consists not in an experimental undoing of form or denial of inspiration (in the name of either subjective expression or objective craft), but in a specifically religious defence of these things which simultaneously suggests that the defence of religion requires a renewal of poetic practice. Such a 'faith in poetry' experiments with prosody and achieves a new musicality, not for their own sakes, but as the only way to intimate transcendence and to develop the experience of a belief that is turn by turn both luminous and difficult.
*Catherine Pickstock, Professor of Metaphysics and Poetics, University of Cambridge, UK*

Beautifully conceived and beautifully written, this study provides an essential context for nineteenth-century poetics. The nexus of poetic form and religious culture complicates the legacy of Romanticism and exerts real weight on poetry even today. Hurley’s prose will be both rewarding to scholars and accessible to students. One could hardly ask for a more lucid and elegant treatment of these important questions.
*Charles LaPorte, Associate Professor, University of Washington, USA*

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