Fortress Press

A Generous Symphony: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Literary Revelations

A Generous Symphony

Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Literary Revelations

Christopher D. Denny (Author)


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Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the preeminent theologians of Roman Catholic theology in the modern era, constructed a theological world suffused by the literary, a vision carried across over 16 volumes of his magnum opus. A Generous Symphony offers a balanced appraisal of Balthasar’s literary achievement and explicates Balthasar’s literary criticism as a distinctive theology of revelation, which offers possibilities for understanding how divine presence may be manifested outside the canonical boundaries of Christian tradition.

The structure of A Generous Symphony is a chronological presentation of the Balthasarian canon of imaginative literature, which allows readers to see how social and historical interests guide Balthasar’s readings in the pre-Christian, medieval, and modern eras. While other books have examined the systematic theology of Balthasar, this book will examine the important question of how students of literature, like Balthasar, can be transformed into theologians by attending to the implicit presence of Christ in what Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem "As kingfishers catch fire . . ."  called "the ten thousand places." Balthasar’s deep investment in the uniqueness of Christian revelation is underlined, while, at the same time, his aesthetic sympathies cause him to invest literature with ‘quasi-sacramental’ status.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781451487954
  • eBook ISBN 9781506418933
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 326
  • Publication Date November 1, 2016


Introduction: A Theology of Literature as Christian Revelation
1. A Literary-Historical Reading of Hans Urs von Balthasar and His Sources
2. “Only in the West”: Christian Foreshadowings in Ancient Greece
3. Myth or Philosophy? Defending Literature’s Preeminence
4. Dante and the Eschatological Limits of Literature
5. The Theater of Reconciliation in Shakespeare and Calderón
6. The Rise of Promethean Salvation in German Romanticism
7. After the Fall of Christendom: Children, Celibates, and Other Idiots




 A Generous Symphony is essential reading for anyone interested in the field of religion and literature.

“What are Hans Urs von Balthasar’s virtues as a literary critic? Christopher Denny answers the question as clearly, roundly, and thoroughly as one could ever hope. He recognizes Balthasar’s most searching insights into European literature and its traditions, yet is also attentive to Balthasar’s blind spots and to new possibilities that emerge when we read Balthasar with care. A Generous Symphony is essential reading for anyone interested in the field of religion and literature.”

Kevin Hart | The University of Virginia

. . . An important, forward-looking contribution to the study of the relationship between Christianity and literature . . .

 “A Generous Symphony is a knowing and authoritative study of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology of literature. As sweeping as its subject—from Homer and the Greek tragedians to Dostoevsky,Gerard Manley Hopkins, Peguy, and Bernanos—A Generous Symphony engages a host of relevant contemporary scholarship and provides a nuanced and never-merely-adulatory understanding of Balthasar’s work. This book represents an important, forward-looking contribution to the study of the relationship between Christianity and literature, and Balthasar’s place in that conversation.”

Ed Block | Marquette University