- Edited by Kevin Taylor, Pfeiffer University, USA, and Giles Waller, University of Cambridge, UK
- Series : Ashgate Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts
Drawing together leading scholars from both theological and literary backgrounds, Christian Theology and Tragedy explores the rich variety of conversations between theology and tragedy. Three main areas are examined: theological readings of a range of tragic literature, from plays to novels and the Bible itself; how theologians have explored tragedy theologically; and how theology can interact with various tragic theories.
Encompassing a range of perspectives and topics, this book demonstrates how theologians can make productive use of the work of tragedians, tragic theorists and tragic philosophers. Common misconceptions – that tragedy is monolithic, easily definable, or gives straightforward answers to theodicy – are also addressed. Interdisciplinary in nature, this book will appeal to both the theological and literary fields.
Contents: Introduction; Part I Theology and Tragic Literature: Four Biblical characters: in search of a tragedy, Ben Quash; Tragic sacrifice and faith: Abraham and Agamemnon again, Jennifer Wallace; Primo Levi and the tragedy of Dante's Ulysses, Vittorio Montemaggi; 'Thee thither in a whirlwind': tragedy and theology in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, Robin Kirkpatrick. Part II Theologians and Tragedy: Freedom, fate and sin in Donald MacKinnon's use of tragedy, Giles Waller; Simone Weil: force, tragedy, and grace in Homer's Iliad, Adrian Poole; Hans Urs von Balthasar and Christ the tragic hero, Kevin Taylor; The tragedy is in the pity: C.S. Lewis and the Song of the Goat, Michael Ward. Part III Theology Engaged with Tragic Theory: Participating in the tragedy: emplotting the Dionysian in Christian thought, Craig Hovey; Tragedy, contingency, and atonement: Waiting for Godot and Jesus of Montreal, Larry D. Bouchard; Sacrifice and the tragic imagination, Douglas Hedley; Tragedy without evasion: attending [to] performances, David S. Cunningham; Conclusion, David F. Ford; Bibliography; Index.
About the Editor: Kevin Taylor studied theology at Wake Forest University and Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his PhD in Divinity from the University of Cambridge (Peterhouse).
Giles Waller's undergraduate degree in Divinity is from the University of Cambridge (Peterhouse), and he began his PhD with Ben Quash at Peterhouse; he is currently supervised by David Ford.
Reviews: 'Christianity can never turn its back either on tragedy or the tragic; not if it wants to face the world squarely. The tragic all too evidently occurs and tragedy meditates upon it - raising metaphysical and theological issues in its wake. This remarkable collection of essays stages imaginative dialogues between voices, characters and situations across two and a half millennia of writing. And out of the conversations created, as theological and philosophical reflection engages literary studies and biography, comes a dazzling cross-fertilisation of thought and feeling. I have never encountered a collection like this. It offers original and profound deliberations on issues riddling human histories and sounding the mysterious depths of the human condition itself.'
Graham Ward, University of Manchester, UK
'Can notions of a final and complete redemption, so central to Christian conviction, be reconciled with the tragic vision and its acceptance of the irretrievability of certain kinds of failure? The complexities involved here are not just theological, but also involve themes central to literature, philosophical anthropology, and the history of ideas. This excellent collection, by scholars belonging to a variety of intellectual traditions, casts a new light on this question, while eschewing the temptations of an easily gained clarity. It will certainly be a point of reference for subsequent discussions of this topic.'
Kenneth Surin, Duke University, USA
'There are few more pressing issues for contemporary Christian theology than the relationships to classical and modern tragedy. This fine collection is excellent in remembering past and present theological attempts to correlate theology and tragedy. The collection also provides several new constructive theological suggestions on tragic suffering, evil and redemption. A splendid achievement!'
David Tracy, University of Chicago, USA
'… the volume recognizes that to work something out imaginatively has the potential to assist understanding of real and everyday experience. These essays make connections between a literature that is concerned with life and a theology that goes beyond an easy and facile panacea. They suggest avenues for exploration rather than a resolution of the primary questions, an approach that recognizes that it is perhaps its ultimately irresolvable and unfathomable nature that best characterizes the tragic. As a result, it is to be hoped that the dialogue might continue, with the authors of this volume well positioned to make further, enlightening contributions to the debate.' Modern Language Review
'Overall, the breadth of disciplines engaged with expands the reader’s understanding of the scope and possibilities of the tragic… All of these essays draw attention to the particularity of the historical suffering of creation and take it with the upmost seriousness. Without shying away from orthodox Christianity, there is a commitment to engaging with human experience and the non-resolution of the world as we receive it. As such it confirms the significance of tragedy and tragic literature as illuminating subjects for Christian reflection.' Theology
'Plato was famously suspicious of the tragic poets; not infrequently, Christian theologians have been as well. In many different ways, the authors of these collected essays show that, on the contrary, there is much to be learned from studying tragic literature that is decidedly edifying for the life of Christian faith seeking understanding.' Anglican Theological Review
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