G.K. Chesterton's recovery of the Catholic-mystical tradition and his position in relation to Victorian aesthetics

Carnehl, Adam Edward (2018) G.K. Chesterton's recovery of the Catholic-mystical tradition and his position in relation to Victorian aesthetics. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3306003


With the increase of interest in the branch of theology known as theological aesthetics over the last five decades, it is notable that one Christian writer who was both an artist and art critic has been neglected. Gilbert Keith Chesterton was not a professional artist, philosopher or theologian, yet he deftly interpreted the major aesthetic currents in his late-Victorian context, and formulated a theological aesthetic in the course of his early career. In interpreting the aesthetics of the time, Chesterton was primarily commenting upon three writers: John Ruskin, Walter Pater, and Oscar Wilde. Ruskin’s approach, the highly ordered natural theological approach he termed “Theoria,” stood opposed to the antinomian approach of Pater and Wilde with their call of ‘art for art’s sake.’ In this thesis I argue that these Victorian writers sought to preserve aesthetic and spiritual experience in the midst of post-Romantic aesthetic and religious fragmentation. After the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and the critical theology of David Strauss, even aesthetics struggled with new, critical interpretations of God, the Bible, and humanity. As my argument unfolds, I hold that both Theoria and Aesthesis (‘art for art’s sake’) are attempted solutions to the problems of a post-Kantian age of “honest doubt,” and I show how Chesterton took these approaches as his starting point as he formulated a Symbolist response to the aesthetic-religious fragmentation. In his response I argue that he achieves a recovery of Catholic and mystical Christianity. My thesis thus interprets Chesterton as one who drew together a variety of late-Victorian approaches to religion and aesthetics, and I ultimately conclude that Chesterton’s direct contribution to theological aesthetics is his insistence that human creativity is a mirroring of divine creativity and allows the beholder to encounter in the artist the very “Image of God.”

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Aesthetics, theology, theological aesthetics art, symbolism, aestheticism, theoria, Victorian, Ruskin, Pater, Wilde, Chesterton, Watts, Blake, modern painters.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Pattison, Professor George and Jasper, Professor David
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Reverend Adam Carnehl
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-8883
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2018 08:53
Last Modified: 01 May 2018 08:58
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/8883

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