Jamie Callison is Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway. His publications include The Grail Mass (2018) and articles on T. S. Eliot, David Jones, and twentieth-century religious culture, which have appeared in ELH, Literature and Theology, and Modernist Cultures among other venues. His monograph Modernism and Religion: Between Mysticism and Orthodoxy will be published in Edinburgh University Press’s Critical Studies in Modernist Culture series in 2023.
“Rediscovering the Moravians: Between Credulity and Credibility in the Poetry and Lived Religion of H.D.”
The paper attends to a specific moment of discovery in the (mid)life of the imagist poet H.D. Using archival sources, the paper pieces together H.D.’s surprise at finding her childhood church, the Moravians, referenced in an occult narrative incorporated into Denis de Rougemont’s comparative literary study (and work of philosophical personalism) Love in the Western World – a text that she read in her mid-50s. The occult version of the Moravians differed greatly from H.D.’s own recollections of her childhood religion. The paper uses pictures and other historical documents from H.D.’s childhood to piece together what this discovery might have felt like for her. The paper then goes to show how the conflicting attitudes towards this rediscovery shaped H.D.’s poetry and prose of the period. In addition to exploring its significance for H.D.’s poetics, the paper uses the incident as a way of reflecting on the significance of scholarship on lived religion (as practised by figures like Robert Orsi and Alana Harris) to modernism and, indeed, the role modernism might play in the study of lived religion. The paper notes that scholarship on lived religion favours the hybrid and the accretive and argues that, while bricolage may well be a feature of modernist art, it is an equally prominent component of modernist religion.