Melville’s lyrical faith

One of the editors of this collection of essays on Melville’s Philosophies is a good friend, Kim Evans; we met at a conference in Syracuse when I was presenting on Matthew Arnold. She asked me if I would like to contribute an essay on Melville’s enormously long poem, Clarel, using some of my thoughts on Arnold’s picture of faith and poetry. The poem is about a journey in Palestine and in the resulting essay I ended up focusing on the lyrical episodes that punctuate this epic poem, at which junctures I suggest an emotional and visceral faithfulness persists through the poem’s larger sense of arid skepticism.

Rhian Williams, “‘Learning, unlearning, word by word”: feeling faith in Melville’s Clarel.’ In: Arsic, B. and Evans, K.L. (eds.), Melville’s Philosophies. Bloomsbury Academic: New York (2017), pp. 175-197

Matthew Arnold, poetry, faith, tears

(2013) ‘Divine liquidness of diction … divine fluidity of movement’: Reading Poetry after Matthew Arnold and the Higher Biblical Criticism. Literature and Theology, 27(3), pp. 313-329.

This article is prompted by the turn since 2000 in literary study to ‘formalism’ (‘New Formalism’) to return to Matthew Arnold (1822–88) and his work to realign the Bible and literature after Strauss’ mid-century higher biblical criticism. The article interrogates the terms of Arnold’s poetic-religious formulations, and his reputation for scepticism, so as to recover an obscured energy in how the academy reads poetry in his wake. It demonstrates this through a reading of the ‘man of sorrows’ and weeping in Arnold’s ‘Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse’, seeking ways to recover the historical conditions of faith and expression.