Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Conversations with Kenelm: Essays on the Theology of the 'Commedia'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Conversations with Kenelm: Essays on the Theology of the 'Commedia'

Article excerpt

John Took, Conversations with Kenelm: Essays on the Theology of the 'Commedia' (London: University College London Arts & Humanities Publications and Ubiquity Press, 2013). vi + 201 pp. ISBN 978-1-909188-00-6. £13.00.

John Took's collection of eight essays and his revision of Christopher Ryan's unpublished Dante and Aquinas: A Study of Nature and Grace in the Comedy were both published in 2013. The two books are naturally read side by side (and they are freely downloadable as PDFs from Ubiquity Press): both studies are arguably 'conversations with Kenelm', taking, as they do, the great English Dante scholar as their inspiration, and some of his key insights as the starting points for their own reflections.

As his foreword suggests, Took presents a personal account of the theology of Dante's Commedia in dialogue with Kenelm Foster (a Dominican priest) but from a different confessional standpoint: in Took's 'part of the Church we revere our heroes - Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Kierkegaard, Barth, Tillich and the cloud of Protestant witnesses generally' (p. ii). This standpoint colours, often in interesting ways, the four of Took's essays which revisit cornerstones of Foster's scholarly legacy: the relationship between the thought of Dante and Aquinas (pp. 1-47); the theology of salvation (pp. 49-79); the relationship between nature and grace in the poem (pp. 81-104); and the 'Two Dantes' (pp. 121-37). And it surfaces even more strongly in the other four essays, the last two of which, 'Dante and the Protestant principle' (pp. 155-70) and 'The courage of the Commedia' (pp. 171-90), explicidy take Tillich's The Protestant Era and The Courage to Be as their theoretical points of entry.

Took's study is timely - in foregrounding the continued critical importance of Foster's work - and daring - in engaging outside Dante studies with wider theological discourses. There are, however, some stylistic difficulties with the essays as a whole. …

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