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Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 39, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2019

D. M. Yeager
Pages 213-235

A Quality of Wonder
Five Thoughts on a Poetics of the Will

What place has poetry in the teaching or reflection of ethicists? Even poetry that has no obvious political edge can play an important role in refining a poetics of the will, where will is understood at once as the motive power of action and as the seat of both our freedom and our bondage. Poems by W. H. Auden, Anthony Hecht, Galway Kinnell, William Carols Williams, and others are examined against a background provided by the work of Erazim Kohák, H. Richard Niebuhr, and Paul Ricoeur. A poetics of the will requires attention to affirmation, beauty, and wonder, but also to concrete embodiment, full recognition of the complex reality of persons and situations, and mature resistance to the temptation to righteousness and the seduction of despair.

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