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R.S. Thomas's God : the possibilities of symbiosis

Toal, Patrick (2015) R.S. Thomas's God : the possibilities of symbiosis. PhD thesis, Prifysgol Bangor University.

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Abstract

This thesis contends that the lodestar of R. S. Thomas’s theological thinking is not metaphysics but hermeneutics. Specifically, while discussing the whole range of Thomas’s poetry, from the work of the Manafon years onwards, and including the ekphrastic sequences, the thesis suggests that Thomas’s religious poetry does not present us with ontologically-premised ‘models’ of divinity; rather, the thesis argues that Thomas is much more interested in examining and exploring the various reasons why man feels compelled to ‘interpret’ divinity in a particularly ‘metaphysical’ manner. The thesis argues that a central theme in much of Thomas’s religious poetry pivots on an appeal for perceptual and thus conceptual renewal. Thomas, it is argued, is neither religiously ‘orthodox’ nor religiously ‘heterodox’; his religious poems do not project a specific ‘metaphysics’ of divinity—such as the supposition that God is ‘absent’—but posit that one-dimensional theological formulations stem from theological misinterpretations. Thomas, therefore, is read as a religious poet whose primary intellectual goal is to contest and then eradicate theological confusions, and, the thesis maintains, the poet often stresses that these confusions stem from theological unawareness. Whereas most Thomas scholarship asserts that the poet is indeed hypothesising an explicitly ‘metaphysical’ understanding of divinity, this thesis states that much of Thomas’s religious poetry has the intention of demolishing ontological paradigms. The thesis argues that Thomas’s religious poetry presents a ‘symbiotic’ understanding of divinity. God must not be understood via a single predicate; for example, we must not attempt to comprehend the Being of God through the metaphysical postulations that He is absent, immanent, or transcendent. Rather, predicative symbioses provide us with the best way of understanding God. In addition, the thesis argues that this symbiotic understanding of God is ripe with intellectual possibilities; that is, our religious imaginations are refreshed as soon as we become aware of predicative complexity in regard to descriptions of God. It is also argued that the crux of Thomas’s religious verse is not ontology but psychology; the poet wants us to examine the foundations of our religious nomenclature and, by extension, he wishes us to investigate the reasons why we feel duty-bound to construe divinity by means of ontology. The thesis therefore argues that Thomas’s religious poetry performs an essentially cathartic, or even ‘therapeutic’, function. Thomas dismantles theological ontology and, by so doing, he shows us that our theological suppositions and conjectures often originate from a misleading point of departure. Thomas’s religious poetry reengineers needlessly ‘metaphysical’ machinery in our theological understanding; his poems challenge largely-accepted religious rubrics and demonstrate the necessity for intellectual reform. In Thomas’s theological lexicon, the thesis argues, faith is cognate with doubt and vice versa. The thesis maintains that Thomas’s religious poems do not so much project a specific understanding of divinity, as disclose fallacious theological archetypes. Thus, the broad argument of the thesis is that Thomas’s religious poetry is intended to expose, and subsequently undermine, inaccurate theological thinking, with the eventual intention of revitalising man’s religious comprehension.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Degree Thesis
Departments: College of Arts and Humanities > School of English Literature
College of Arts and Humanities > School of Welsh
Degree Thesis
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2016 13:48
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2016 13:48
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/6584
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