Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation is the first comprehensive analysis of the subject of mortality in Gerard Manley Hopkins's writings. Hopkins's writings on this subject are broad and varied: while still a student at Oxford, Hopkins became fascinated by martyrs; later, as a priest he would go on to write movingly about the deaths of parishioners in his care and would extol the virtues of soldiers, or "daredeaths" as he refers to them in one poem; finally, toward the end of his life, Hopkins became preoccupied with the role our own mortality plays in shaping our life, perspective, and choices. While previous scholars have tended to dismiss Hopkins's interest in death as "morbid" and have commonly rejected the notion that there is a unified perspective on death in his writings, I argue that his treatment of death exhibits both a fundamental unity and an ethical perspective. In a synthesis of formal criticism and moral philosophy, I show that Hopkins's poems are not so much emotional expressions as spiritual exercises; they are both shaped by and imitative of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola as well as the broader tradition of spiritual exercises in Christian and classical thought. As such, they provide methods for responding to death ethically by using our experiences and awareness of death to redirect and transform our will and desires.