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This review is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM Michael Edwards, Poetry and Possibility: A Study in the Power and Mystery of Words (Macmillan) £29.50.

Declare yourself: this is a key imperative of modern criticism. Michael Edwards is a poet, a critic, and, unequivocally, a Christian - though the house of Christianity has, of course, many mansions. His Towards a Christian Poetics (1984), parts of which appeared, in earlier versions, in PNR 16, 20 and 30, offered a bold, comprehensive and locally subtle theory of literature and, more tentatively, of music and painting. To link literature with sociology, psychoanalysis, Marxism, linguistics, structuralism and post-structuralism is today expected, almost obligatory; to link literature with theology, as Edwards pointed out in that book, has become unusual, strange. He suggested, however, that currently acceptable approaches may, even if they seem rigorous, fail to go far enough. Whereas the American critic Fredric Jameson aimed to appropriate religious and structuralist approaches for Marxist dialectics, Edwards sought to appropriate Marxist and deconstructionist motifs for a 'dialectical spiritualism' and 'a Christian theory of the sign'.

Edwards's overall perspective is that the world is both an exile from Eden, and God's creation and the object of his concern. The Christian journey is not away from this world, but towards this world transfigured into a province of the kingdom of heaven. He finds a 'crucial oxymoron' in St Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:44: 'It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body'. Poetry, working with and on the material of language and of the world can move towards such a transformation; but, in a fallen world, it ...


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