Is God a Verb? The Dynamics of the Divine in Religious Poetry

Charlotte Clutterbuck

Abstract


Discussing the language of Paradise Lost, Thomas Merrill claims that religious language is performative: it does what it says. If this is true, and I think it is especially true of religious poetry, then a close look at the writer's grammatical choices will illuminate what he is trying to do. One of the most important choices is whether a poet speaks to God in a first and second person dialogue, or writes a first and third person reflective-narrative about God. I use the term 'dialogue' because, although God does not literally utter words in any of the poems I discuss in this paper, the level of interaction between God and the poet goes far beyond the term 'monologue'.

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