Friday, February 18, 2005

Book Group Report: Week Three

The group met last night. There were 8 of us. We coffee and blackberry pie with real whipped cream. (Thanks, Mom!) Here are the subjects we discussed, phrased in terms of the questions raised by the readings. You can find the readings here.


1. Is Gascoyne's "Christ of Revolution and of Poetry" a real person, or a symbol for a non-personal force or aspect of human nature? Gascoyne was a communist, and joined the Party in 1936, one year before he wrote Ecce Homo. (Unfortunately, I didn't know those dates at the time). What is there about Jesus that would move a non-believer to write such a poem? Is Gascoyne's depiction of Jesus ("this horrifying face, this putrid flesh, discoloured, flayed, fed on by the flies) theologically justified? Why is Gascoyne using those images?

2. Do Blake's And Did These Feet in Ancient Time and Kipling's Recessional say things about human society and God's providence? Are their views complementary or opposed?

3. Does Sassoon's The Redeemer have the same literary perspective, the same vantage-point for viewing Jesus, as Gascoyne's, Blake's and Kipling's poems? What is different about Sassoon's viewpoint? Does it speak to anything about Gascoyne's attraction to Jesus?

4. Is there an ambiguity in Sassoon's depiction of Jesus and the soldier? ("He stood before me there; I say that He was Christ . . . an English soldier, white and strong, Who loved his time like any simple chap") Is it intentional? What message does it convey?

5. Where does Hopkins', Plunkett's, and da Todi's poetry fit in? What is their "viewpoint," their point of perspective, from which they view Jesus?

6. What does Shakespeare love so well that the very thought of this love transports him from woe and dissatisfaction to bliss? Is Sonnett XXIX a poetic evocation of St. Augustine's Confessions? ("You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.") Can any love give men what Shakespeare experiences in Sonnett XXIX, even disordered love?

7. Do the Psalms qualify as poetry? How about the litanies? Is there anything different about the "standpoint" of the psalms and litanies? What does it mean for Jesus to quote Psalm 21 in the presence of His mother?

8. What level of relationship do authors like Gascoyne, Sassoon, Blake, etc. and David, Merry del Val, etc. have with their subject? Why are the levels different?

8. Is Merry del Val (author of the Litany of Humility) describing the Blessed Virgin? What does it mean to pray, "That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should"? Was the Blessed Virgin tempted by anything? If yes, what does it mean to say she was "tempted"? What does it not mean?

9. Is poetry the ultimate Christian metier? What effect does Christianity have on the arts generally? Is Christianity's impact simply providing "material" for art, or does it have a deeper influence?

Next Week: Selections from Pascal's Penses.

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