Date of Award

Spring 6-1-2019

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Christine Chaney

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Jennifer Maier

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Yelena Bailey


erotic devotional poetry, Rilke, binary, Neoplatonism, Protestant, St. Augustine


A genre best known for its appearance in Eastern religions, erotic devotional poetry uses sensual imagery to access an experience of the divine. Historically, many Christian traditions, excluding the mystical ones, have pushed back against such literature, seeing it as an impure model that degrades divinity by association with the physical, especially in the specific physical ritual of sex. This stance is a hallmark of Protestant Christianity. The idea of a dichotomy and hierarchy between soul and body, though, comes not from theology but from the introduction theologians made between Western philosophy, particularly Platonic Dualism, and Christianity, which was then solidified by Enlightenment ideals. My project identifies the theological and philosophical basis for erotic devotional poems and looks to the way that they, particularly in the writing of Rainer Maria Rilke, have resisted the intrusion of neoplatonism upon spiritual practice.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Program.