Reading in & about Maximus these days.

Not Olson's poem, nor his eponymous model (an Ionian peripatetic Sophist), but the Byzantine monk & theologian (600 a.d. or so). Maximus the Confessor.

Maximus was eventually martyred for taking a theological stand in the drawn-out conflicts between developing Orthodoxy & the various dissonant models of the nature of God & the Person(s) of the Trinity.

For most people, I suppose, the deadest of dead-ends & benighted controversies.

But reading an intro to a collection of his writings by Andrew Louth (Routledge, 1996) I was struck by a passage which seemed to have curious relevance to poetics. Much of the theological debate hinged on the question "What is a Person?" Here is Louth's passage:

"What is Maximus' answer to this problem? It is guided, as will now be evident, by his 'Chalcedonian logic'. Person is contrasted to nature: it is concerned with the way we are (the mode, or tropos), not what we are (principle, or logos). When he became incarnate - when he assumed human nature - the Word became everything that we are. But he did it in his own way, because he is a person, just as we are human in our own way, because we are persons. Maximus sometimes, as we have seen, expresses this distinction of levels by distinguishing between existence (hyparxis) and being (ousia, or einai): persons exist, natures are. Whatever we share with others, we are: it belongs to our nature. But what it is to be a person is not some thing, some quality that we do not share with others - as if there were an irreducible somewhat within each one of us that makes us the unique persons we are. What is unique about each one of us is what we have made of the nature that we have: our own unique mode of existence, which is a matter of our experience in the past, our hopes for the future, the way we live out the nature that we have. What makes the Son of God the unique person he is is the eternal life of love in the Trinity in which he shares in a filial way."

What struck me here is the idea that the personal is a way of troping on the common nature that we share : a way, not a substance. If we look at poetry as "troping" a personal "way", suddenly the debates over "lyric subjectivity" et al. take on a slightly different coloring.

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