What happens when poetry deals explicitly with a serious theological issue? In Poetry Does Theology, Jim Rhodes seeks one answer to that question by analyzing the symbiotic relationship that existed between theology and poetry in fourteenth-century England. He pays special attention to the narrative poems of Chaucer, Grosseteste, the Pearl-poet, the author of Saint Erkenwald, and Langland.
Rhodes shows that Chaucer and his contemporaries wrote at the end of a linguistic and theological revolution—a time when revised perspectives on the creation and incarnation gave rise to a new humanistic spirit that transformed late medieval theological culture and spurred the development of vernacular theology and poetry. Rhodes’ careful analysis describes how the relationship between theology and poetry underwent a radical transformation as the latter half of the fourteenth century progressed.
“. . . refreshing and original points of view on well-known works. Rhodes’s book establishes a provocative topic most worthy of further consideration.” — Journal of Religion
“As Jim Rhodes demonstrates in this readable and extremely intelligent book, the diverse ways in which Chaucer, Grosseteste, and the Pearl-poet treat theological themes are intricate and subtle. . . . Rhodes’s book definitely breaks new ground by advancing our understanding of the theological facets of Ricardian literature.” — Studies in the Age of Chaucer
“Rhodes has produced an elegant and comprehensive assessment of the symbiotic relationship between poetry and theology in the late 14th century.” — Choice
“Jim Rhodes . . . studies the symbiotic relationship between the poetry of 14th-century England and theology. He does this by a careful analysis of Robert Grosseteste’s Le chateau d’amour (The Castle of Love); Langland and the Four Daughters of God; the Pearl-Poet; the author of Saint Erkenwald; and four tales of Chaucer: the Prioress, the Second Nun, The Reeve, and the Pardoner.” — Theology Digest
“. . . Rhodes’ book is an affirmation of the role that poets played in religious transformations of the late medieval period and a readable series of essays, each chapter acting as a fairly self-contained reading of one or two texts. . . . The text also contains several analytical gems relating the poetry to detailed readings of Hebrew Scripture, demonstrating the author’s exegetical talent. Of most interest to the literary scholar of late medieval poetry, it should also prove interesting to serious students of pre-Reformation English Christian thought.” — Religious Studies Review
“Rhodes emerges as a reader to whom fictive persons matter, regardless of the century they inhabit, because they and their lives speak about us—not as subjectivities but as souls. His book deserves credit for treating both medieval religion and medieval poetry seriously as liberating elements in human life.” — Speculum