'Prayer and Prayfulness in Dante'

Poetry and Prayer: Continuities & Discontinuities - 'Prayer and Prayfulness in Dante'

An international conference organized jointly by the Institute of English Studies and Heythrop College, University of London.

The analogy and continuity between poetry and prayer, the poetical and the mystical, has often been discussed. The psychological mechanism used by grace to raise us to prayer is, Henry Bremond wrote, the same as that set in motion in poetic experience. Both poetry and prayer are rooted in an inner experience of concrete and fundamental values so that both invite, using the language of John Henry Newman, a real rather than a notional assent. Reading a poem can be perceived as a prayerful experience. W.H. Auden wrote: 'to pray is to pay attention to something or someone other than oneself. Whenever a man so concentrates his attention -- on a landscape, a poem, a geometrical problem, an idol, or the True God -- that he completely forgets his own ego and desires, he is praying.'

And yet it is also true that we have no shared understanding of the terms 'prayer' and 'poetry'. Some might claim that there is no connection between them. The traditions of poetry and prayer are numerous and the connections between them elusive. And poetry is, self-evidently, not exactly the same as prayer.

The conference will consider the similarities, interrelatedness and differences between poetry and prayer. What do poetry and prayer share? How do they differ? In what ways do they relate to each other? Theoretical reflections and historical surveys will provide a context for the discussion of individual texts and authors from different countries and cultural and religious traditions.

Institute of English Studies
John Took (University College London)
Event date: 
Saturday, 30 June 2012 - 1:00am
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