The mysticism of William Sharp (1855-1905) and the Celtic renascence: Spanish Carmelite and symbolist influences

McAuley, Rosemary T. (2014) The mysticism of William Sharp (1855-1905) and the Celtic renascence: Spanish Carmelite and symbolist influences. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis focuses on the mysticism that shaped the life and work of William Sharp and the Celtic Renascence. It aims to argue that Sharp was a mystic and to investigate what was shaping his mysticism. To that end it uncovers two key influences on Sharps mystical writing: Symbolism and the spirituality of the Spanish Carmelite mystics. In relation to this it argues that Sharp’s friendship with Arthur Symons was pivotal in this endeavour with Symons three month trip to Spain in 1899 culminating in the release of his two books: The ‘Symbolist Movement in Literature’ and ‘Images of Good and Evil’ with its chapters on Carmelites St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila. It looks to Coventry Patmore as the original source, eight years earlier of Symons’ first introduction to the Carmelite mystics. It argues, then that Spain was a central influence to Sharp in that it’s Carmelite Mystics and in its folktales and romances (which is evident in his writing) and looks to the original Celtic presence in Spain as source. The Carmelite influences are examined in Sharp’s later writing as ‘Fiona Macleod’ in particular the Dark Night Spirituality of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. It argues, too, that the lyrical, passionate poetry of the Carmelites influenced Sharp and others in their own mystical writing and linked to the musical qualities of the Symbolists. Sharp’s mystical development is examined in relation to his choosing to write as a Catholic and a woman as Fiona Macleod from 1895. It argues that Sharp’s relationship with significant women such as Christina Rossetti and Olive Schreiner shaped his writing as well as the influence of key academic women including his wife and his friendship with Edith Rinder Windgate. His early vision of the ‘Lady of the Woods’ also is seen to have influenced his search for the sacred feminine ideal and I argue that he was a visionary, ahead of his time ultimately looking for a feminine renewal. This was shared by the Marian charism of the Carmelites. This thesis argues that Sharp became more Christological in his mysticism, later writing as ‘Fiona Macleod’ and that his twelve year friendship with Christina Rossetti was a pertinent Christian influence on Sharp.

In summary, this thesis argues against previous assertions by Alaya and Meyers that have undermined Sharp had sexually conflicts was and minor literary player or Blamires’ claim he was of the fairy world. Instead it maintains that Sharp was a prolific and creative writer and mystic who should have a place as a significant figure at end of the nineteenth century. I demonstrate that his mystical experience and writing were visionary and were pivotal to the development of a purified mysticism. I argue that Sharp was a strong masculine spirit who saw the significance of the feminine choosing to write as a woman from 1895. I argue that Spanish Carmelite spirituality was being discovered by his close friend Arthur Symons in the 1890’s and I hypothesise that there is a strong probability that Sharp would have been exposed to the writing of the Spanish Carmelites through Symons and Patmore and their writing.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Professor David
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-6135
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2015 11:20
Last Modified: 02 May 2018 12:16

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