Journal Article

Mystic Excess: Extravagance and Indecorum in Richard Crashaw

Alexander T. Wong

in The Cambridge Quarterly

Published on behalf of Cambridge Quarterly

Volume 39, issue 4, pages 350-369
Published in print December 2010 | ISSN: 0008-199X
Published online December 2010 | e-ISSN: 1471-6836 | DOI:
Mystic Excess: Extravagance and Indecorum in Richard Crashaw

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This essay, a re-evaluation and partial justification of the traditionally controversial eccentricities of Richard Crashaw's poetry, examines the function of ‘excess’ in his work. ‘Excess’ is taken to mean both stylistic extravagance and transgression of the normal boundaries of decorum. The first section characterises Crashaw's stylistic extravagance, partly in terms of ‘revisional flux’, and explores Pseudo-Dionysian semiotics and the notion of ‘incongruity’. The second section introduces George Bataille's theory to explain the extravagance in erotic and mystical terms. The third section moves on to ‘indecorum’ of several kinds, including the use of financial and appetitive, or sensual, imagery. The final section offers observations about Crashaw's tonal ambiguity, use of irony, and combination of wit with seriousness.

Journal Article.  7617 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Art ; Film ; Music

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