A Vigilant Wonder: Michael Edwards, Poetry, and the Bible

Toby Garfitt's picture
Call for Papers
March 15, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
French History / Studies, Literature, Religious Studies and Theology, Languages, Humanities

A Vigilant Wonder: Michael Edwards, Poetry, and the Bible. A study-day to be held at the Maison Française, Norham Road, Oxford, on Friday 17 May 2019.

Michael Edwards is the only Englishman ever to have been elected to the Académie Française. While holding a chair at the Collège de France (2002-2013), he produced a stream of books in French on Shakespeare and on English poetry more generally, but also on such topics as émerveillement (marvelling) and happiness, in literature, art and music. Prior to that, while he was Professor of English at Warwick, he had published three books in English exploring the spiritual aspects of poetry. A recent book, in French, is Bible et poésie (2016). Our study-day will consider some of the issues raised by his work, in particular: poetry in the Bible, Biblical poetry and translation, poetry and presence, poetry between suffering and the sublime, poetry between quietism and engagement, orality and poetry, Biblical poetry and the Christian poets, Biblical poetry among secular poets. Individual contributions may focus on specific texts or on the wider literary/theological context.

A first study-day on a similar theme took place at Magdalen College, Oxford, in May 2018. Topics addressed included Dante and the Bible, the German translation of the Bible by Buber and Rosenzweig, a new translation for Penguin of the ballads of St John of the Cross, early English paraphrases of the Psalms, the poetry of Geoffrey Hill, and a poetry exhibition hosted by Leicester Cathedral; and the papers and discussions all engaged in various ways with the work of Michael Edwards. Abstracts will be available.

Michael Edwards himself will be taking part this year. Confirmed speakers include Valentine Cunningham (Emeritus Professor of English, Corpus Christi College, Oxford), David Jasper (Emeritus Professor of Literature and Theology, Glasgow), Peter Davidson (poet and essayist, and Senior Research Fellow, Campion Hall, Oxford), Michael Parker (OUDCE and Oxford Brookes), and Stephen Romer (poet, translator, and literary critic). On the previous afternoon there will be a poetry reading (also at the Maison Française, Norham Road) from his new book At the Brasserie Lipp, organized by Carcanet Press.

There is room for a few further short papers. Offers of papers (limited to 3,000 words, in English, referring to poetic writing in any language), and requests to attend (there will be a small charge to cover administration and lunch) should be sent to toby.garfitt@magd.ox.ac.uk and b.sudlow@aston.ac.uk by 15 March 2019.

Indicative bibliography:

Michael Edwards, Bible et poésie, Paris: Éditions de Fallois, 2016

– , Towards a Christian Poetics, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1984

– , Poetry and Possibility: A Study in the Power and Mystery of Words, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988

– , At the Brasserie Lipp, London: Carcanet Press, 2019

Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry, New York: Basic Books, 1985; Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1990; ProQuest e-book, 2011

Donald Davie, ed., The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981

F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, On Biblical Poetry, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015

David L. Jeffrey, ed., A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1992

John Henry Newman, ‘Poetry, with reference to Aristotle’s Poetics’ (1829), in Essays Critical and Historical, London: Longmans Green, 1890, 1-26.

Paul Claudel, Le Poète et la Bible, t. I (1910-1946), Paris: Gallimard, 1998; t. II (1945-1955), Paris: Gallimard, 2004

Marie-Josette Le Han, Paradigme biblique et expérience poétique: l’exemple de Patrice de La Tour du Pin, Besançon: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2006

Bertram Kircher, ed., Die Bibel in den Worten der Dichter, Freiburg: Herder, 2005

Contact Info: 

Toby Garfitt, Emeritus Professor of French, Magdalen College, Oxford, UK