Johnson 2014

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Johnson, Kimberly. Made Flesh: Sacrament and Poetics in Post-Reformation England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.

"This book demonstrates the ways in which the sacramental conjunction of text and materiality, word and flesh, in the ritual of Communion registers simultaneously as a theological concern and as a nexus for anxieties about how language -- particularly poetic language, with its valences of embodiment -- works." (2)

modern critics arguing about what theologies Donne and Herbert represent -- Louis Martz arguing for Catholicism on the one hand, Barbara Lewalski for "Protestant poetics" on the other (3-4)

  • "Not surprisingly, the Eucharist has come to serve for modern critics, as it did for early modern divines, as a kind of litmus test for confessional allegiance" (4)
"a doctrinally definitive approach may prevent even acute readers from appreciating how adaptable, porous, and sometimes inconsistent Christian worship was in the post-REformation period, for both communities of worship and individuals alike. Studies that ground textual analysis within historical context have done much to illuminate the complexity of belief in the period, and have helped demolish any notion that post-Reformation doctrine, institutional or otherwise, was consistent. And yet the persistent assumption that a poem declares any given writer's creed or that it presents a stable articulation of a doctrinal position threatens to reduce poetic utterance to a transparent referential instrument, a straightforward and aesthetically naive expression of the spiritual life of the poet." (6)
"Made Flesh addresses the phenomenal and epistemological overlaps between textuality and sacramental worship to demonstrate that in the period following the religious Reformation of the sixteenth century, the lyric poem becomes a primary cultural site for investigating the capacity of language to manifest presence. In poems that employ the presentational, and representational, strategies of Communion, 17th-century writers assert the status of poems as artifacts with corporeal as well as symbolic resonances, such that the poems themselves embody the shifting and precarious relationship between materiality and signification -- which, not incidentally, is precisely the issue that produces conflicting accounts of the operation of the Eucharist." (6)