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Session 8: Theology and Poetry

The Theology Reading Group invites you to their next

-- and this year's last --



Wednesday, 20th June, 4 p.m.

in the Wolfson Research Exchange

Chaired by Dr Ian Fielding

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348 – c. 410 CE) is perhaps second only to Dante as the most important poet of the Latin Middle Ages. In the later fourth century CE, when Prudentius was composing his remarkable body of work, poetry had ceded much of the influence that it exercised in the culture of Classical Antiquity to the prose writings of patristic authors.

Session 8

But in spite of the ambivalence with which poetry was regarded by some of his eminent contemporaries, such as Augustine, Prudentius nonetheless undertakes a broad exploration of poetry’s potential to answer to some of the key theological concerns of his age. In his treatment of language, and its capacity for conveying divine truth, Prudentius also appears to anticipate many of the central issues of postmodern theology.

Please join us for a discussion of Prudentius and more generally, of the questions and the possibilities that are raised by poetic approaches to theology. We will be reading two of Prudentius’ most widely read and discussed poems: the third poem of the Peristephanon (‘On the Crowns of the Martyrs’), which celebrates the passion of the virgin martyr, Eulalia of Mérida; and the Psychomachia (‘Battle of the Soul’), the first fully allegorical poem in the history of Western literature, in which personified Virtues engage in a series of brutal single combats against their opposing Vices. In their vivid representation of extreme violence, these two works demonstrate how Prudentius seeks in his poetry to elicit a powerful emotional – even, physical – response from his audience.

The Latin texts of Prudentius’ poetry can be found online at Musisque Deoque. An English translation of Peristephanon 3 is available from the Reading Materials page; a translation of the Psychomachia can be found online by clicking here. Also available is the draft of an article on violence in Prudentius, recently prepared by the chair of the session, Ian Fielding. Please email him ( or the organisers: Joanna Rzepa ( or Máté Vince (