By Karen Dieleman
Religious Imaginaries explores liturgical practice as formative for how three Victorian women poets imagined the world and their place in it and, consequently, for how they developed their creative and critical religious poetics. It rethinks ideas that Victorian women’s faith commitments tend to limit creativity; that the contours of church experiences matter little for understanding religious poetry; and that gender is more significant than liturgy in shaping women’s religious poetry.
Exploring the import of bodily experience for spiritual, emotional, and cognitive forms of knowing, the author explains and clarifies the deep orientations of different strands of nineteenth-century Christianity, such as Congregationalism’s high regard for verbal proclamation, Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism’s valuation of manifestation, and revivalist Roman Catholicism’s recuperation of an affective aesthetic. Looking specifically at Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Adelaide Procter as astute participants in their chosen strands of Christianity, Dieleman reveals the subtle textures of these women’s religious poetry: the different voices, genres, and aesthetics they create in response to their worship experiences.