An Unexpected Light | by David C. Mahan

An Unexpected Light

An Unexpected Light: Theology and Witness in the Poetry and Thought of Charles Williams, Michael O’Siadhail, and Geoffrey Hill by David C. Mahan
(Wipf & Stock, 2009, 246 pages)

In An Unexpected Light David Mahan asks the question “Can poetry matter to Christian theology?” (1). He believes that it can and that the poetry of Charles Williams, Micheal O’Siadhail, and Geoffrey Hill reveals that it does. Mahan makes the case that modern poetry’s contribution to theology is more than a question of adorning traditional doctrines with emotional resonance. The poetry of these three poets has functioned as a response to the “rhetorical and imaginative challenges,” of late-modernity, serving the purpose of “revitalizing the language of faith in ways that are at once faithful and compelling” (19).

I was particularly interested in Mahan’s close reading of Charles Williams’ Arthurian poems. Williams’ retelling of the Arthurian myth is highly original, drawing out and developing the latent theology of the Arthurian tradition. Mahan handles this material with real skill, revealing, among other things, how Williams’ poetry demonstrates and develops the incarnational nature of the Christian faith. The ideas in the book are slightly obscured at times by overwrought and overly technical prose. This minor quibble aside, Mahan’s book is a significant contribution to the interdisciplinary study of literature and theology.

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