Approaching the divine: perspectives on nature and humanity in the poetry of Walt Whitman and Gerard Manley Hopkins

Show simple item record Worster, Starr 2021-04-07T13:40:45Z 2021-04-07T13:40:45Z 2020
dc.description A dissertation submitted for the degree of Master of Arts, in the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, 2020 en_ZA
dc.description.abstract This study, through an analysis of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself and selected poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, engages in a comparison between the two poets focusing on their expression of a sense of the divine in their poetry, particularly with regard to nature and humankind. The study explores differences and similarities in their celebration of nature, their expressions of spirituality and God’s presence in the world and in their poetic language and style. Hopkins’ spirituality is focused and devotional, emerging out of the context of the structure of the Roman Catholic Church and his Jesuit life; Whitman’s is diffuse and indeterminate, based on transcendental and pantheistic beliefs. Whitman’s voice is that of a prophet and he establishes himself as a visionary, a speaker for all humankind. His creed is rooted in diverse principles of faith and belief, in which for him, God is primarily the divine force or energy in the universe. Hopkins is first and foremost a priest. He sees his poetry as a means to praise and revere God, and his contemplation of beauty, of the world is a wholly religious experience. My focus is on the distinction between the roles of prophet and priest in order to explore a variety of contrasts. I have mentioned Whitman’s ecumenism and heterodoxy as opposed to Hopkins’s Catholicism and orthodoxy. In looking at the spirituality inherent in their poetry, I will largely be considering how their differing convictions and beliefs about divinity impact on their views on nature and humanity. Whitman and Hopkins share a love of nature, celebrating the beauties of the universe in their poetry. Whitman’s expression of his love for nature is erotic and pantheistic while Hopkins has a sacramental view of nature. Whitman focuses on divine humanity, Hopkins on sinful humanity and redemption. In addition to comparative analysis, I will be looking at the influences that played a role in the development of their poetic minds. Both poets were, to some extent, inheritors of the Romantic tradition, and Whitman was inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson and transcendental philosophy. Hopkins was influenced by the High Church Tractarian Movement in Oxford and John Henry Newman, by the teachings of John Duns Scotus and by Ignatian spirituality. The focus in this dissertation on the distinctions between prophet and priest as underlying a variety of contrasts provides a lens into the spirituality of these two poets who, according to John Pick, are ‘so like and yet so unlike’ en_ZA
dc.language.iso en en_ZA
dc.title Approaching the divine: perspectives on nature and humanity in the poetry of Walt Whitman and Gerard Manley Hopkins en_ZA
dc.title.alternative Approaching the divine: perspectives on nature and man in the poetry of Walt Whitman and Gerard Manley Hopkins en_ZA
dc.type Thesis en_ZA
dc.description.librarian CK2021 en_ZA
dc.faculty Faculty of Humanities en_ZA School of Literature, Language and Media en_ZA

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