Liturgy, Performance, and Poetry of the Passion: David Jones and The Dream of the Rood

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In essays and correspondence, as well as in his poetry, David Jones continued to return to the image of the Anglo-Saxon ‘Dreaming Tree’ as he meditated upon the central image of the Catholic Church and of the liturgy, that of the Passion. This article explores David Jones’s interest in the tenth-century Vercelli Book poem The Dream of the Rood and its wider tradition, and brings new knowledge from Early Medieval English Studies to bear on Jones’s late modernist poem, The Anathemata (1952). Drawing on archival research from The Library of David Jones, National Library of Wales, this paper argues that Jones’s poetic reworking of The Dream of the Rood in visual and verbal media offers a perceptive and informed response to the liturgical and vernacular contexts that may have produced The Dream of the Rood in the tenth century. Although discussions of Jones’s use of The Dream of the Rood often focus upon the image of the sacrificial cross and the trope of the Miles Christi, this paper suggests that Jones’s interest lay in how the poem might be seen to respond to the multisensory and performative dimensions of the Christian liturgy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-92
JournalReligion & Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2018


  • liturgy
  • modernist literature
  • medieval literature
  • old english poetry
  • David Jones

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