The Image of the Invisible God (Col. 1:15): Forming a Sacramental Imagination through the Works of Hopkins and O'Connor

Blume, Catherine, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Jost, Walter, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

This thesis considers the role that literature and language can play in forming the imaginations of students, specifically high school students, to see and respond to the world sacramentally, or in a way that affirms and participates in the sacramental act of God being made present in nature and human beings. This is undertaken by first considering the role of memory in forming the imagination. It considers how the prosody, images, and metaphors of Hopkins’s poetry and the images and symbols of O’Connor’s short stories can create a storehouse of images, sounds, patterns, symbols, and metaphors that can be used to recognize likenesses among realities, specifically among visible and invisible realities.

Once the memory is sufficiently stocked with these images, the students can begin to engage with them dialectically as they are led through discussions on both Hopkins and O’Connor. In Hopkins’s poetry, the sacramental presence of God in the created world is best revealed in nature. By using the sacramental imagination to read Hopkins’s poetry and engage with the natural world, a cosmology of Wisdom emerges in and through poetry. In O’Connor’s short stories, the sacramental presence of God in the created world is best revealed in the human
person. When applied to O’Connor’s short stories, the sacramental imagination reveals an anthropology of Wisdom in and through storytelling.

Once they have engaged the literature dialectically, the students can then consider it rhetorically, as they learn to communicate through speaking and writing the arguments discovered in specific works, in particular, arguments concerning the presence of God and Wisdom in the created world. The sacramental imagination then becomes societal as it is embodied and communicated in the words and writings of students.

In addition to a critical consideration of how to form a sacramental imagination through the works of Hopkins and O’Connor, this thesis also includes an appendix of lesson plans and writing assignments that correspond to each stage in the development of such an imagination: memory, dialectic, and rhetoric.

MA (Master of Arts)
sacramental imagination, Hopkins, O'Connor
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