The radicalism of Christianity is often underplayed in literary studies by scholars who perceive its theology as politically suspect and inflexible. Yet an unwillingness to engage with Christian theology and experience produces critical misreadings of literary texts that reveal Christianity’s doctrines and ideas as anything but myopic. This essay explores the doctrine of kenosis as integral to Christianity’s compassionate vision in the work of two writers associated with the nineteenth-century Catholic revival: Christina Rossetti and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Kenosis describes Christ’s becoming human as a temporary letting go of his divinity; for Rossetti and Hopkins, this models a way of being and thinking in which the subject is untied from an ego desirous of control and power. Both writers consequently embraced the interdependence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Trinity as a way of conceptualizing faith through shared humility and weakness. This approach to the self, the world, and God is an important one to identify in Christian texts, but it also exemplifies a Christian way of thinking more broadly attuned to the depiction of vulnerability and introspection in literature and culture.

You do not currently have access to this content.