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Ted Hughes and Christianity: Constant Revelation of the Sacrificed God

Troupes, David (2017) Ted Hughes and Christianity: Constant Revelation of the Sacrificed God. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This study challenges the accepted critical line that Ted Hughes was an ‘anti-Christian’ poet. By looking past the superficial ‘God’-mocking of Hughes’s early collections and focussing instead on his creative deployment of symbols and structures such as the fall, incarnation and crucifixion, I develop a nuanced, theologically informed appreciation of Hughes as a genuine religious poet with strong affinities for Christian thought. I read Hughes alongside a gathering of twentieth-century theologians, most significantly Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, Jürgen Moltmann and Karl Rahner, and locate many areas of resonance between Hughes’s preoccupations and those of his theological near-contemporaries. I argue that the most significant sign of Hughes’s alignment with Christian thought is his tacit endorsement of a fundamentally Christian anthropology and teleology. That is, he conceives of humanity as fallen from a state of divine continuity, and sees us oriented toward a telos of redemption by way of an often explicitly crucifixional ordeal. A large number of prose statements evidence his comfort with unironic Christian invocation and his facility with Christian symbolism. Even as his poetry and prose gesture toward a pan-religious, syncretic understanding of the human condition, Christianity furnishes his work with those figures – Christ, Mary, the serpent – from whom his other characters acquire their significance. Hughes’s strong countercultural streak and individualism (part and parcel of his Methodist inheritance) make him hostile to religion in the cultural, churchy sense, and he clearly delights in lampooning the enthroned creator-God of popular worship. But my study demonstrates that we fatally impoverish our appreciation for Hughes’s art if we fail to account for his debt to Christian thought.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Ted Hughes Christ Christianity Religion
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr David Troupes
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2018 09:31
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2019 01:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19199

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