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Divine Allurement: Beauty in the Theological Vision of Thomas Traherne

MERRILL, DAVID,LOWELL (2017) Divine Allurement: Beauty in the Theological Vision of Thomas Traherne. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Through an in-depth exploration of his literary theory, doctrine of creation, anthropology and doctrine of sanctification, this thesis examines the essential role that beauty plays in the theological vision of Thomas Traherne. Through an analysis of Traherne’s poetry and prose, Chapter 1 identifies the purposive nature of Traherne’s literary output to be one of allurement. Combating previous claims that Traherne’s poetry and prose lack an inherent link between form and content, I argue that through the irreducible interrelation of literary form and content Traherne crafts literary objects of contemplation, that being beautiful are inherently alluring.
Since Traherne understood his poetry and prose to be mimetic of creation, Chapter 2 examines Traherne’s doctrine of creation. For Traherne, creation is the divine speaking forth, a manifestation of God-self in corporeal beauty, that when truly encountered, calls to, and allures human desire. I argue that Traherne understands beauty through Christian Neoplatonism, in that beauty is the shining forth of the transcendent good, and as such bears the inherent quality of allurement.
Chapter 3 examines Traherne’s theological anthropology, tracing Traherne’s understanding of desire and freedom. Taking special care to identify humanity’s capacities for perception and apprehension, this chapter shows how the human has been uniquely created to receive and be allured by God’s self-disclosure in creation.
Chapter 4 examines the evolving nature of human perception through Traherne’s understanding of the four estates (innocence, misery, grace, glory). Having established the centrality of perception for a true sight of beauty and proper directionality of desire, I argue that the central purpose of Traherne’s oeuvre is the transformation of perception. As literary objects of contemplation, Traherne invites the reader to encounter his work as an echo of the divine allurement in creation, and most acutely known in the Incarnation.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Traherne, Beauty, Desire, Theology, Poetry, Anglican, 17th century, Creation,
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Dec 2017 12:47

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