Touching God

Touching God

Hopkins and Love

By Duc Dau

Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

The first book devoted to the study of love in the writings of Gerald Manley Hopkins, ‘Touching God’ offers fresh readings of Hopkins’ poetry by considering love in relation to mutual touch.

Hardback, 158 Pages


May 2012

£70.00, $115.00

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About This Book

Love is often called a leap of faith. But can faith be described as a leap of love? In ‘Touching God: Hopkins and Love’, Duc Dau argues that the conversion of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Roman Catholicism was one of his most romantic acts.

‘Touching God’ is the first book devoted to love in the writings of Hopkins, illuminating our understanding of him as a romantic poet. Discussions of desire in Hopkins’ poetry have focused on his tortured and unrequited attraction to men. In contrast, Dau builds on existing queer and conventional readings of the poet’s work by turning to theories of mutual touch propounded by Luce Irigaray and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In the process, she uncovers the desire Hopkins actively cultivated and celebrated: his love for Christ. By analysing Hopkins’ writings alongside his literary, philosophical and theological influences, she demonstrates that this love is what he called ‘eros’ or ‘amor’.

Dau argues that descriptions of the body and its acts of tenderness – notably touching – played a vital role in the poet’s depictions of spiritual eroticism. By forging a new way of reading desire and the body in Hopkins’ writings, this work offers fresh interpretations of his poetry, and contributes to contemporary interest surrounding the relationship between love, sexuality and spirituality.


‘Duc Dau has written an exciting and provocative book, […] a worthy and timely addition to the world of Hopkins scholarship, bringing a fresh, innovative, and at times deliberately challenging approach to the too-often-overlooked area of love in the writing of Hopkins. […] Far from denying the corporeal, this approach rightly draws attention to a frequently overlooked rich spiritual eroticism found nestling at the very heart of so much of Hopkins’s writing.’ — Hannah Dunleavy, ‘Hopkins Quarterly’

‘[A] fresh and frankly written study of the treatment of love in Hopkins’s poetry. One thing that makes Dau’s book exceptional is […] the candour with which she joins aspects of Hopkins scholarship so often at odds with (or at least unobservant of) each other: here, interest in the theological and interest in the erotic.’ —Summer J. Star ‘The Year’s Work in English Studies’

‘[O]f great interest and real value to Hopkins scholars and to those interested in Hopkins as a man and a thinker. […] And the book is throughout engrossing to read.’ —Erik Gray, ‘Victorian Studies’

‘This study will contribute to a new understanding not only for readers of Hopkins but also for those concerned with the subject of Christianity and sexuality. Highly readable, personal yet objective, Dau draws on fresh scholarship of the Victorian background, a wide range of Hopkins studies, and present-day theories. “Touching God” is a first-rate contribution to the whole subject of the theology of the body.’ —James Finn Cotter, author of ‘Inscape: The Christology and Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins’

 ‘“Touching God” offers provocative insights about the relationship between the life of the body and the life of the spirit. This book is quite innovative because it avoids what we might call a standard “queer” or even “gay” approach to Hopkins. While acknowledging an ample fluency in the scholarship on the homoerotic Hopkins, Dau gives us a poet to read for the insight he offers on the experience of the body in relation to the love of God. Dau suggests that Hopkins’ poetry is for everyone, a commendable achievement in a world shaped by the politics of identity. It is a rare book that can speak to a feminist or queer reader as well as a traditional Catholic; “Touching God” is one such book.’ —Frederick S. Roden, author of ‘Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture’

Author Information

Duc Dau is an honorary research fellow in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia, where she also completed her doctorate on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.


Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Abbreviations; Introduction: Love and Touch; Chapter One: Confluence and Reflection; Chapter Two: Virgin Marriage and the Song of Songs; Chapter Three: Conception, Pregnancy, Birth; Chapter Four: Caressing, Conversing, Kissing; Chapter Five: Homecoming; Notes; Bibliography; Index


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