Christ the Form of Beauty: A Study in Theology and Literature

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Christ the Form of Beauty: A Study in Theology and Literature. By Francesca Aran Murphy. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995. vii + 236 pp. $43.95 (cloth).

Though her title hardly hints at it, what Francesca Aran Murphy seems to be after is nothing less than a way of understanding the world. She finds it in an incarnational theology that insists on "an external, meaning-bearing world" (pp. 195-196) and that interprets "human things as places in which God could be present" (p. 201). That presence, Murphy argues, is known by the imagination, a faculty whose reputation she works diligently to redeem. Not merely "a vehicle of fantasy," imagination is "a means of exploring reality" (p. 19), of "knowing facts through images" (p. 7)-in particular, through the image of Christ, the finite form which reveals the infinite and affirms the conjunction of the good and the beautiful.

Murphy builds her argument by examining the works of a number of thinkers, mostly Roman Catholic, who share a concern for the image: philosopher Jacques Maritain; writers of the Southern Fugitive-Agrarian school (John Crowe Ransom, Caroline Gordon, and Allen Tate); and theologians William Lynch and Hans Urs von Balthasar. …