11. Devotional Poetry's Mysterium Tremendum

The Holy in a Pluralistic World - Rudolf Otto's Legacy in the 21st Century - Ulrich Rosenhagen

Constance Furey [+-]
Indiana University
Constance M. Furey is Professor and Chair in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Recipient of a multi-year Luce Foundation grant for a collaborative project, “Being Human,” she is also the author of two monographs, most recently Poetic Relations: Faith and Intimacy in the English Reformation (University of Chicago, 2017). Among other projects, she has written multiple essays on the Immanent Frame blog and has a forthcoming book, co-authored, entitled Devotion: Three Inquiries in Religion, Literature, and Political Imagination.


In his desire to preserve religion’s transformative potential, Rudolf Otto consistently privileged God’s ‘otherness’ over familiarity, decrying social and personal representations of God. And yet Otto vacillates on this point, at times insisting on the importance of human-divine connection. In this essay, I follow Otto’s lead by considering something he himself does not fully develop: a conflation of the personal and the impersonal, of self and other in relation. To help understand Otto’s view, I examine how Martin Luther envisioned the duality of divine otherness and intimacy. I then consider devotional poetry, showing how it similarly combines an awareness of alterity with the solace of proximity, enabling intimacy that is something other than “merely” personal—thereby offering what Otto suggests he was seeking.

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Furey, Constance. 11. Devotional Poetry's Mysterium Tremendum. The Holy in a Pluralistic World - Rudolf Otto's Legacy in the 21st Century. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Jun 2022. ISBN 9781781794906. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=30394. Date accessed: 07 Dec 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30394. Jun 2022

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