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The body of Mary for the body of Christ: Mary's maternal body as the poem of the father

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

John Paul II’s theological anthropology, the Theology of the Body, seeks to articulate how the experience of being loved and of loving is foundational to a person’s realising selfhood and meaning. John Paul’s particular phenomenological focus is upon the love manifest in spousal relationships, including their sexual aspect. The task he sets himself is to articulate how spousal love and the human body mutually disclose each other and point to God. John Paul’s hermeneutical task is to ‘re-read the language of the body in truth.’ He begins by giving an extended interpretation of the Genesis creation narratives then applies the truths he finds they disclose (the person as made for love, as gifted, as sacramental sign) to a theological interpretation of the living and embodied person. This thesis considers John Paul’s findings in the context of select contemporary theologians similarly interested in the body and in language. In line with some key suppositions of John Paul’s methodology, metaphor (and poetics more generally) is held to be strongly present in the material world, including in acts of thinking, communicating, and interpreting. Following John Paul’s phenomenological method, this thesis applies and extends it in two ways. Firstly, by looking at how literary texts (particular phenomena experienced in the mind and the body) and the body (as that through which one encounters all phenomena) can be read as mutually disclosive ‘texts,’ each of which is truth-bearing. To that end, a number of late twentieth-century poems whose subjects deal in some way with the maternal figure of Mary are read as linguistic embodiments of the human through which truths about what it is to be human are evoked. Secondly, this thesis reads the poetics of the maternal ‘obstetric’ body, through the lens of the Virgin Mary, thereby extending John Paul’s anthropological findings to a new subject. Integrating the Virgin Mary within theological anthropology opens the way for a new, somatically-grounded Mariology.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2018


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