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When He would Compose from Fragments a World Perfect at Last: Theology and Poetics in Czeslaw Milosz's "From the Rising of the Sun"

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This essay considers the place of religious and theological thought in the work of 20th century Nobel Laureate, Czeslaw Milosz (1911–2004). In a manner unique in contemporary world literature, Milosz approached and utilized these realms as a means to formulate and examine questions that are both timely and timeless. Focusing on sections I, II, and VII of the long poem-sequence, "From the Rising of the Sun," (along with discussions of other key poems and texts) the essay explores the dynamic interplay between theological thought and poetic craft in Milosz's work. Section I, "The Unveiling," introduces both the key themes the poem sequence explores (being and time, the meaning of history and individual lives, fall and redemption) as well as key poetic techniques (direct descriptive invocation and nuanced use of verb tense). Section II functions as a poetic embodiment of a particularly Miloszian, unorthodox "Manichaenism," an outlook that finds no basis for human values in the natural order of the world. Embedded in this section is a poetic gesture of hope that is more fully explored in Section VII. In this concluding section Milosz, using a full-range of poetic techniques ranging from the dramatic-narrative to the direct invocation of vanished reality, explores the heterodox theological concept of apokatastasis, or total restoration, as a gesture of profound hope that has theological, ethical, and aesthetic implications.


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