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Touching God


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An examination of love in relation to touch in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ writings.

Love is often called a leap of faith. But can faith be described as a leap of love? In ‘Touching God: Hopkins and Love’, Duc Dau argues that the conversion of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Roman Catholicism was one of his most romantic acts.

‘Touching God’ is the first book devoted to love in the writings of Hopkins, illuminating our understanding of him as a romantic poet. Discussions of desire in Hopkins’ poetry have focused on his tortured and unrequited attraction to men. In contrast, Dau builds on existing queer and conventional readings of the poet’s work by turning to theories of mutual touch propounded by Luce Irigaray and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In the process, she uncovers the desire Hopkins actively cultivated and celebrated: his love for Christ. By analysing Hopkins’ writings alongside his literary, philosophical and theological influences, she demonstrates that this love is what he called ‘eros’ or ‘amor’.

Dau argues that descriptions of the body and its acts of tenderness – notably touching – played a vital role in the poet’s depictions of spiritual eroticism. By forging a new way of reading desire and the body in Hopkins’ writings, this work offers fresh interpretations of his poetry, and contributes to contemporary interest surrounding the relationship between love, sexuality and spirituality.

Acknowledgements; Abbreviations; Introduction: Love and Touch; Chapter One: Confluence and Reflection; Chapter Two: Virgin Marriage and the Song of Songs; Chapter Three: Conception, Pregnancy, Birth; Chapter Four: Caressing, Conversing, Kissing; Chapter Five: Homecoming; Notes; Bibliography; Index



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Published 01 December 2013
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EAN13 9781783080793
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Touching God
Anthem NineteenthCentury Series
Anthem NineteenthCentury Series incorporates a broad range of titles within the fields of literature and culture, comprising an excellent collection of interdisciplinary academic texts. The series aims to promote the most challenging and original work being undertaken in the field, and encourages an approach that fosters connections between areas including history, science, religion and literary theory. Our titles have earned an excellent reputation for the originality and rigour of their scholarship, and our commitment to high quality production.
Series Editor
Robert DouglasFairhurst, Oxford University, UK
Editorial Board
Seamus Perry, Oxford University, UK Archie Burnett, Boston University, USA Michael O’Neill, Durham University, UK Dinah Birch, University of Liverpool, UK Clare Pettitt, King’s College London, UK Linda K. Hughes, Texas Christian University, USA Jo McDonagh, King’s College London, UK Simon J. James, Durham University, UK Kirstie Blair, University of Glasgow, UK Adrian Poole, University of Cambridge, UK JanMelissa Schramm, University of Cambridge, UK Heather Glen, University of Cambridge, UK Angela Leighton, University of Cambridge, UK Christopher Decker, University of Nevada, USA
Touching God
Hopkins and Love
Duc Dau
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
This edition first published in UK and USA 2013 by ANTHEM PRESS 75–76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK and 244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
First published in hardback by Anthem Press in 2012
Copyright © Duc Dau 2013
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Cover photograph of Auguste Rodin, ‘The Cathedral Hands’, Musée Rodin; photo © Susan Sherratt 2009
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library CataloguinginPublication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress CataloginginPublication Data The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows: Dau, Duc. Touching God : Hopkins and love / Duc Dau. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 9780857284433 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Hopkins, Gerard Manley, 1844–1889–Criticism and interpretation. 2. Love in literature. I. Title. PR4803.H44Z6164 2012 821’.8–dc23 2012004989
ISBN13: 978 1 78308 048 9 (Pbk) ISBN10: 1 78308 048 5 (Pbk)
This title is also available as an ebook.
Love and Touch
Chapter One Confluence and Reflection Chapter Two Virgin Marriage and the Song of Songs Chapter Three Conception, Pregnancy, Birth Chapter Four Caressing, Conversing, Kissing Chapter Five Homecoming
Notes Bibliography Index
vii ix
1 17 35 67 83 101
115 133 141
Many hands have touched this project, which began over a decade ago at the University of Western Australia. Daniel Brown and Kieran Dolin guided me through much of it with their patience and perspicacity. Tony Hughesd’Aeth shared ideas and his life with me. Judy Johnston always lent a sympathetic ear. For discussions, suggestions and assistance of one kind or another, I thank Andrew Lynch, Bob White, Steve Chinna, Anne Scott, Ian Saunders, Bill Taylor, Michael Levine, Hilary Fraser, my colleagues at 73 Fairway, and Gail Jones. Philippa Martyr read the entire manuscript at a later stage and offered thoughtful suggestions and encouragement. Of the friends I made at the University of Western Australia, I am especially grateful to Darren Jorgensen, Megan Kingdon, Natalia Lizama, Olivia Mair, Caitlin McGuinness and Lavinia Vaz. Scholars elsewhere have left their mark on this book. I thank James Finn Cotter, Lesley Higgins and Jude Nixon, whose readings of an earlier version helped sharpen the manuscript, enabling it to take its present shape. I am indebted to Fred Roden for being a wonderful, wise, generous friend and mentor. Email conversations with Deborah Lutz assisted in amorphous but, no doubt, significant ways. I would be remiss if I did not mention Kirstie Blair, Emma Mason, Margaret Harris and Jock MacLeod for their support of my work. I could not have completed this project without the support of my family and friends. I thank my parents, Thap and Kim, my siblings, An and Jimmy, and brotherinlaw Michael. Of the friends who provide me with perspective on the things that matter, I wish to single out Fiona Rutkay and Matthew Fenwick, for understanding the impulse to write; Fiona Whittaker, Julian Figg and Juliana Koh, for friendships that eased my move to Perth and sustain me to this day; Zoë Hyde, for technical expertise and conversations on topics innumerable and delightfully strange; Katie Crocker, for being Katie and for happily eating my first attempt at gourmet vegan cooking; Sarah Rutherford, whose memory I will always cherish; Nandi Chinna, for the gift of poetry; and ‘the crew’, for emotional support and hours of laughter. Last – but of course by no means least – I thank Tennille Crooks for her love during the final stages of the project.
Several libraries were generous in making materials available to me. I am grateful to the community of Campion Hall, Oxford, for allowing me access to the Hopkins Archives; I especially thank Master Gerard Hughes and Graham Pugin for their hospitality. I am appreciative to Penelope Bulloch and Alan Tadielo of Balliol College Library for their kind assistance with the Jowett Papers. I am also indebted to Colin Harris of the Bodleian Library, and to James Hodkinson and Mihaela Repina of the Farm St Library, London. The librarians of the University of Western Australia’s Reid Library and Scholars’ Centre also deserve a special mention. I would like to thank Tej Sood and Janka Romero of Anthem Press for their professionalism and faith in the project. The editorial team deserves a grateful mention for its assistance. Many thanks to the two anonymous readers chosen by the press; it was a privilege to see my work through your eyes. I am indebted to Jasmina Brankovich and Lisette Kaleveld for their copy editorial interventions. A shortened version of Chapter Four was published as ‘The Caress of God’s Breath in Gerard Manley Hopkins’,Sydney Studies in English31 (2005): 39–60; portions of Chapter Two appeared in ‘Perfect Chastity: Celibacy and Virgin Marriage in Tractarian Poetry’,Victorian Poetry44 (2006): 77–92; and a portion of Chapter Three appears in ‘Reassessing Gilbert and Gubar: Women, Creativity, Hopkins’,Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies(forthcoming). 16 I am grateful to the editors of these journals for permission to reprint the sections here. Part of this project was funded by an Australian Postgraduate Award and a University of Western Australia Winthrop Scholarship.
Further Letters
Oxford Essays
The Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges. Edited by Claude Colleer Abbott. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1955.
The Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon. Edited by Claude Colleer Abbott. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1955.
Further Letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins Including his Correspondence with Coventry Patmore. Edited by Claude Colleer Abbott. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1956.
The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Edited by Humphrey House and Graham Storey. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1959.
Oxford Essays and Notes. Edited by Lesley Higgins. Vol. 4, The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
The Sermons and Devotional Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Edited by Christopher Devlin. London: Oxford University Press, 1959.