A reexamination of Nathan Scott's literary criticism in the context of David Tracy's fundamental theology

William Donald Buhrman, Marquette University

Abstract

Although Nathan A. Scott, Jr. is an eminent member in the field of theology and literature, a comprehensive evaluation of his work remains to be written. Current interpretations describe him as a theologian who employs Paul Tillich's method of correlation and a sacramental understanding of the human experience in order to interpret literature. However, this dissertation asserts alternatively that Scott explicitly employs the method of correlation in only two early books: Modern Literature and the Religious Frontier (1958) and The Broken Center (1966). It also clarifies that he does not define sacramentality in an explicitly Christian way, but rather uses that term to indicate that a broad range of experiences present human beings with what Martin Heidegger calls Being. Furthermore, sacramentality functions as a primary interpretive construct only after Scott has been writing for nearly twenty years, first appearing in Negative Capability (1969), then in The Wild Prayer of Longing (1971) and The Poetry of Civic Virtue (1973). This dissertation also investigates the unexplored relation between Scott's use of sacramentality and his effort to show that literature testifies to a "fundamental faith" in existence. It explains that The Poetry of Civic Virtue (1976) and The Poetics of Belief (1985) use literary texts to argue existence both genuinely supports the search for meaning within human experience and indicates the ground of such experiences. Thus, this dissertation finds that Scott moves away from a Tillichian theology of culture and toward a form of fundamental theology as outlined by David Tracy in Blessed Rage for Order (1975) and The Analogical Imagination (1981). In basic agreement with Tracy's description, Scott uses literature as the basis for correlating human experience with the Christian tradition. And he emphasizes, with Tracy, that a commitment to the practice of theology and the production of culture (especially literature) is worthwhile because they are simultaneous and mutually informing efforts to understand our lives and the ultimate power that supports them. This dissertation concludes by outlining three criteria that Scott's method, understood as a form of fundamental theology, suggests literary analysis must meet in order to make compelling theological claims.

Recommended Citation

William Donald Buhrman, "A reexamination of Nathan Scott's literary criticism in the context of David Tracy's fundamental theology" (January 1, 2004). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI3141103.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3141103

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