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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
November 2019
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:
Religion, Theology

Book description

In this work of historical theology, Rachel Davies considers the relationship between aesthetics and anthropology in Bonaventure's thought, and shows how bodily diminishment can become a sign and source of the self's renewal. Drawing from texts like the Collations on the Six Days, and the Major Life of Francis, Davies reconfigures traditional accounts of the fallen body's rebellion against the soul and emphasizes instead the soul's original abandonment of the body. Her interpretation draws attention to the crucial but undervalued role that Bonaventure assigns to the body in the self's coming-to-be, and shows how contemplation involves the soul's tender recovery of the body it once rejected. Though contemplation makes body-soul integrity possible again, Davies argues that the body never fully recovers from its primordial alienation. Instead, Bonaventure suggests that individuals can experience brokenness and healing at the same time, and that suffering bodies can become paschal spaces, graced and open to beatific wholeness.


'Rachel Davies's highly original reading of Bonaventure's understanding of the suffering human body and its meanings not only questions established presumptions about Bonaventure's 'Platonism', but also provides a fresh fulcrum for contemporary theological assessments of bodily suffering and its transformations. The result is not merely a fine monograph in historical theology, but a study of great suggestive importance for contemporary systematic thinking. Davies writes with exegetical acuity, spiritual sensitivity, and theological insight.'

Sarah Coakley - Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity Emerita, University of Cambridge

'With vision that is at once scholarly and deeply compassionate, Rachel Davies helps us to see the body and salvation afresh through the eyes of Saint Bonaventure. If we have been tempted to see in Bonaventure an 'Augustinian pessimism' and a 'dualistic Platonism', Davies illuminates a Bonaventurean paschal theology of embodied beauty. Here the body is not an obstacle but, in its very fragility and 'diminishment', a vessel of holiness. In Davies’ elegant treatment, we discover in Bonaventure a bodying forth of the Christian paradox, 'When I am weak, then I am strong.' (2 Cor 12:10) Take and read!'

Kevin L. Hughes - Villanova University, Pennsylvania

‘… Davies offers a rich and illuminative journey through Bonaventure, gleaning from his many riches resources to advance a constructive vision of human bodily being for our time. This book remains an admirable and enjoyable exercise in thinking along with Bonaventure towards an expansive constructive goal. It is a commendable work of constructive theology.’

Junius Johnson - Modern Theology

‘Davies has offered a lucid study of Bonaventure’s theology, one that is noteworthy for the elegance of its argumentation and attentiveness to the mutual intersection of a theology of the body with aesthetic concerns ... readers of Franciscan theology from a variety of disciplines and vantage points will find [this] study erudite, engaging, and provocative.’

Peter Casarella Source: Theological Studies

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