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1. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 3/4
Madeline Read

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Shakespeare’s King Lear prefigures the shape of “dignity” as first imagined by Immanuel Kant, who would argue in 1785 that rational beings are ends in themselves, “something that may not be used merely as means” (46). I do not suggest that Shakespeare secretly used the word “dignity” as it is used today, or even that he himself was any kind of proto-Kantian. Scholars such as Robin Headlam Wells have made the case that his plays are deeply rooted in a Renaissance culture of humanism, which would of course give rise to the discourse of social contracts and universal rights that infused Enlightenment thought—but this does not mean that he was already imagining the kind of rights-bearing human subject that would take shape in the philosophies of Kant, Locke, and Rousseau in the eighteenth century. I do suggest, however, that moments in King Lear hint at an economy in which human value is divorced from wealth, position, or performance: even as Lear sinks lower into disenfranchisement and incapacity, the play insists that his worth does not diminish. If King Lear makes the case for dignity as a quotient of human worth that falls out of the hierarchies of value that first produce and measure worth, the economy it envisions hinges on individuals who can suspend those hierarchies and operate within a space where others command respect simply by being. This economy becomes an aneconomy as it demands respect and dignity in a way traditional exchange economies fail to do; it both asks and enables its participants to be gracious, to let go of the transactional logic by which Lear would have everyone live. Though the image of this world in King Lear is fractured, glimpsed between scenes of great cruelty, malice, and misery, it is nonetheless the climax of Shakespeare’s moral vision for his characters. The narrative enables its viewers to contemplate, if only in fragments, the possibility of absolute human worth.

2. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 3/4
Paul R. Cappucci

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This essay examines a critical moment in the poetic relationship of Denise Levertov and William Carlos Williams—the publishing of The Jacob’s Ladder (1961). It considers the scope of Williams’s influence on Levertov, as well as the ways that this collection signals a new spiritual and imaginative direction in her verse. After detailing the development of their friendship, the essay chronicles how the title poem of The Jacob’s Ladder challenged Williams’s understanding of Levertov’s poetics. It also considers the ways that Levertov’s response to Williams’s criticism marked a pivotal moment in her poetic development. Instead of pulling them apart, their exchanges about the poem deepened their appreciation for each other. In this way, the publication of The Jacob’s Ladder reveals Levertov’s connectedness to Williams, as well as her determination to chart a new direction in her work.

3. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 3/4
Patricia Patrick

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The plot of Romeo and Juliet is shaped by the turns of exchanges. Retributive returns fuel cycles of vengeance that lead to the tragic ending. The prologue notoriously gives this ending away, portraying the tragedy as inevitable, even suggesting that the deaths of Romeo and Juliet were the necessary price of peace. In contrast to these tragic returns, the play also portrays benevolent and liberating kinds of turning. Drawing on civic and religious notions of gracious exchange found in Seneca’s On Benefits and in the Homilies, Shakespeare creates a counterpoint to tragic retribution. These gracious returns offer the liberating possibility of turning aside from a tragic trajectory that is only apparently inevitable.

4. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 3/4
Brett Beasley

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Mystery fiction is sometimes assumed—both by scholars and by general readers—to have a simple or even simplistic relationship to morality. Mysteries, on this view, are straightforward "whodunnits": They satisfy readers by identifying wrongdoing and then assigning blame to the individual or individuals responsible. In this paper, I offer a contrary view. I show that the moral laboratory of mystery fiction often winds up subverting, undermining, and unsettling some of our most basic moral assumptions and our standard approaches to thinking about moral responsibility and moral justification. It does so, I argue, by emphasizing what philosophers term moral luck. I center my analysis on moral luck as it appears in The Moonstone, the novel T. S. Eliot called “the first, the longest, and the best” piece of detective fiction, and I offer suggestions for reading later works of mystery fiction with moral luck in mind.

5. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 3/4

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6. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 2
Nathan P. Devir

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This article investigates the reactions to and understandings of selected psychospiritual situations and themes from William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist (1971) by Christian-professing mental health professionals and clergypersons in Benin. Using a variety of descriptive passages from the novel to stimulate discussion on potential similarities and differences between Global Northern and indigenously specific ontological frameworks, the study showcases selected Beninese perspectives on the causation of mental illness and/or supernatural affliction; highlights the diagnostic strategies employed by those tasked with healing psychospiritual trauma; and, most importantly, explores how Beninese theological responses to Blatty’s devotional message can shed light on the familial values and moral ecclesiology of a West African readership at ideological odds with the mores of the postmodern American audience for whom the novel was originally intended.

7. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 2
Gary M. Bouchard

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This essay interrogates the suitability of the term “sacred parody”, coined by Louis Martz in 1954, to describe the imitative poetic endeavors of Robert Southwell, SJ (1561–1595), and English poets like George Herbert who followed his example of converting secular Petrarchan poetry into sacred verses. The essay focuses its examination on Southwell’s most explicitly mimetic engagement with the established Elizabethan poetic paradigm, a poem by then renowned courtier poet, Edward Dyer (1540–1607). In his adaptation, Southwell converted Dyer’s poem into “Dyer’s Fancy Turned to a Sinner’s Complaint.” Just as the title announces, Southwell renders a re-writing of Dyer’s poem, transforming Dyer’s poem of Elizabethan idolatry into one of religious repentance. Remarkably, Southwell achieves this while leaving two-thirds of Dyer’s original poem intact. This essay examines these two poems alongside one another in order to consider what Southwell’s partial revision of Dyer’s poem suggests about the methods as well as the motives of his personal literary reformation project. Ultimately, it offers reasons for why the familiarly used term of “sacred parody” is an inappropriate descriptor of this Jesuit priest’s literary reformation enterprise.

8. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 2
Joshua P. S. Kim

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This article offers a biography of the American poet, memoirist, and human rights activist Carolyn Forché. As an “essay of witness,” adapted from Forché’s term, the “poetry of witness,” it touches upon her childhood, discusses each of her poetry collections and her memoir, and concludes in the present, with Forché as the renowned “poet of witness” readers know today. Of particular emphasis in this essay is the international outlook, focus, and setting of Forché’s art and activism despite her identity as an American poet. This essay—by accentuating these “global” elements of her work—compels readers to rethink Forché’s career and to take an account of her life as embodying and bearing witness to an America whose history and destiny is richly intertwined with those of other states, in opposition to a vision of a nativist, isolationist, or nationalist America that has grown increasingly prominent in contemporary political discourse.

9. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 2

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10. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 1
Nancy Enright

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Dante lived long before America existed and had no knowledge of the difficult and troublesome history regarding race that has plagued this continent since slavery came to the New World. However, his Divine Comedy can be read as a spiritual journey illustrating the deeply Catholic principle that sin necessitates confession and repentance. In this context, Dante speaks powerfully to the issue of race in America. Nations, like individuals, must reckon with their sins in order to move on to their future in healing and in hope. False arguments that America must recover its “greatness” without a deep and national repentance for the sins of slavery and of racism in general miss the mark spiritually. Just as Dante had to face his own personal sins and failures before moving on from the end of Purgatory into Paradise, America needs to face its sins, both confessing and repenting of them.

11. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 1
Carolyn F. Scott

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Wagner and Miles, the primary servants in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Robert Greene’s Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, derive their function and identity from their masters. Since both Faustus and Bacon are magicians, their servants are influenced by contact with magic. Although they are less significant figures than the protagonists, the servants help to determine the outcome of their respective plays. By examining Wagner and Miles as servants of both their masters and of magic itself, we can see how Faustus and Bacon fail as magicians, as masters of magic. In comparing the “good” servant, Wagner, whose master is overcome by magic, to the “bad” servant, Miles, whose master renounces magic, we can arrive at an understanding of true service and its relationship to magic.

12. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 1
Patrick Dooley

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This essay is a close reading of A River Runs Through It taking Maclean’s opening line, “In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing” is a guide to three elements in the novel: biblical siblings in the Old and New Testament as prototypes of Norman and Paul, the futile efforts of both to be brother’s and brother’s-in-law keepers and fly fishing as curative and restorative remedy.

13. Renascence: Volume > 75 > Issue: 1
K. Narayana Chandran Orcid-ID

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Before we bring a moral verdict on Thomas Becket’s progress as an evolved character, it will help to see the rationale of non-attachment in the light of verses from the Bhagavad-Gita. The passages on knowing-not, knowing, and action/suffering are re-examined here. All by himself, Thomas knows little. What he would know differently, both of/ for himself and others, requires that he seek his dharma by discovering how false or illusory his knowledge has been, and why. This essay tries to capture the pedagogic logic of learning what we know and what we do not. Learning by reciprocal exchange becomes a model for those who are averse to arguing from results. Intertexts like W. B. Yeats’s “Vacillation” and E. M. Forster’s “Hymn Before Action” help them read the Archbishop’s Christmas sermon all afresh. This essay concludes by arguing how Eliot himself found dramatic poetry an ideal vehicle for presenting action precisely the way the Gita exhorts us.

14. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 3/4
James Nohrnberg

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15. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 3/4
Michael Vander Weele

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One does not read very far in the second and by far the longest section of Herbert’s The Temple before the single-minded exhortations of the speaker in “The Church Porch” and the early Lenten “complaints” of Christ to his people in “The Sacrifice” turn to the unpredictable elements of the speaker’s human condition: puzzlement, striving, grief, joy. The quick movement between these elements is due not only to Herbert’s poetic sensibility, I argue, but also to his anthropological understanding and his interest in early Christian precedent. I focus on remnants of Prudentius’ 5th-century Psychomachia in Herbert’s poetry and prose and suggest that they open a new vista onto Herbert’s performance of the unsteady dual state of the temple builder, whether poet or reader.

16. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 3/4

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17. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 2
John Curran

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18. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 2
Ron Bieganowski, S. J.

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19. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 2
Joshua Avery

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This article argues that The Merchant of Venice’s dramatic action invites consideration of the philosophical questions of human agency and intelligibility. The play’s dialogue provokes the reader or auditor to consider what may obstruct or allow for both meaningful action in the world and a genuine understanding of that world. Since these issues were also a major sticking point in Catholic/Protestant controversies, the piece also argues that these issues can be analyzed in light of such theological tensions. One of the article’s main conclusions is that Shylock’s radically individualistic view of law and obligation explodes intelligibility, and by extension meaningful action as well. This destruction lays the groundwork for a world in which conflict can only be resolved via violence. In this sense, the play reveals what is at stake in the questions.

20. Renascence: Volume > 74 > Issue: 2
Dana Greene

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The Anglican religious writer, Evelyn Underhill, (1875-1941) is best known as a scholar of mysticism and an advocate for the practical mysticism for ordinary people. What is less well-known is that in her own spiritual crisis she sought out the assistance of the Catholic, Baron Friedrich von Hugel. However, before she requested his counsel she was greatly influenced by her work on a biography of the thirteenth century Italian poet and mystic, Jacopone da Todi who wrote in the vernacular. This essay details how Jacopone and his predecessor Francis of Assisi, brought Underhill to her contemporary, von Hugel, who himself was influenced by the Franciscan tradition.