In this important volume, French philosopher and poet J.L. Chrétien boldly and subtly applies his vast experience in phenomenology to poetry and literature – showing indeed how to bridge the boundary with philosophy. His real aim is implicit and brave: to show that spiritual authors from Augustine to Claudel surpass Bergson in their philosophical grasp of intuition and joy. He thus claims new turf for spiritual authors in the context of examining an important human constellation of emotions. The approach is exquisitely multi-disciplinary and makes a vital contribution to our understanding of the phenomenology of religious experience. Available in English for the first time, his work will be of immediate interest to philosophers, theologians, literary critics, psychologists, art historians and sociologists.
Introduction: Spaciousness, Joy, and the Legacy of the Word “Dilation”
Chapter One: St. Augustine and the Wide Offshore of Desire
Chapter Two: St. Gregory the Great: Amplitude Within a Narrow Confinement
Chapter Three: The Dilated Runners of Psalm 118, from Henri Michaux to St. Teresa
Chapter Four: Mystical Dilations
Chapter Five: Bossuet on the Open Roads
Chapter Six: Amiel and the Pathology of Dilation
Chapter Seven: Return to Eden with Thomas Traherne
Chapter Eight: Whitman, Voyager Without Limits
Chapter Nine: Paul Claudel’s Cosmic Respiration
Anne Davenport has with sensitivity and insight brilliantly translated the nuances of Jean-Louis Chrétien’s masterpiece on the deep nature of joy, which the modern world urgently needs with its overemphasis on rationality and self-centred individuality. Joy and space are explored through an expansion or opening of the heart, which render us more alive and vibrant, implying that we are fellow-breathers of each other and of all living things, which has implications for rebuilding communities and caring for the environment.
The extraordinary Jean-Louis Chretien reminds us once again not only of the richness of overlooked experiences and the importance of the concepts that preserve them, but of their important place in an account of our humanity that would be able to admit them. Here it is a matter of joy, an affect that modern philosophy has addressed too little, its manifestation in body and soul, and the constitution of space and time that is implied by it. What the bible has known and has been dear to poets and religious thinkers, philosophy cannot afford to ignore. In the dilation of the heart, dilatatio cordis, one finds the center of our existence, in the flesh, in thought, in sensibility and in willing. Wonderfully translated by Anne Davenport, Spacious Joy invites careful reading and indeed re-reading.
Spacious Joy is a brilliant interdisciplinary work by one of France's most daring contemporary thinkers. Ranging from philosophy and theology to mysticism and literature, Chretien invites the reader on a deep, expansive journey of contemplative imagination. The expert translation and Translator's Note by Anne Davenport offer supplementary pleasures to this rich intellectual feast. Taste and see!
J.L. Chretien is a French philosopher and poet. He is currently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris, Sorbonne. He has published 30 books in French and received the Prix du Cardinal Lustiger from the Académie française in 2012 for his philosophical work.
Anne Ashley Davenport is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Boston College.