Harvey Gillman talks of “a power which is divine, creative and loving….” Whichever understanding of this ‘divine power’ different Quakers hold, they are living with and living out the ‘Inner Light’ within themselves. I am interested in exploring the creativity the Inner Light inspires, particularly considering the relationship between Quaker spirituality, values, experience and creative production, particularly literary writing. As Horace B. Ponting comments: “Along the paths of the imagination the artist and mystic make contact”. I will especially focus upon the work of Gillian Allnutt and Philip Gross, as both exemplify a Quakerly approach to writing and the world.
TopicsQuaker spirituality, creativity, Philip Gross, Gillian Allnutt
About Jonathan DoeringI gradually arrived at this topic as the focus for my MA, as it brings together various strands in my life: my Quakerism, my own creative writing (I publish prose fiction and non-fiction in various magazines and journals), and my work as an English teacher. As a Quaker with a keen interest in the study of English Literature and my own creative output, a fascinating (and I think vital) question can and should be asked about the nature of creativity within the frame of Quaker spirituality and theology, and whether there is such a thing as a definable Quaker aesthetic. To what extent does (or should) Quakerism affect what we write about and how we write about it? I intend to consider this question with particular reference to the work of Philip Gross, a long-time Friend and award-winning poet and author, and Gillian Allnutt, a Queen’s Poetry Gold Medal winner and five-year Attender at Durham Meeting, who retains connections with Quakerism.
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I published a series of interviews with Quaker-linked creatives, exploring the relationship between Quakerism and creativity, in the Friend, in 2017: 29th September (novelist Tracy Chevalier), 13th October (Philip Gross), 27th October (comic novelist Marina Lewycka), 10th November (Gillian Allnutt), 24th November (children’s author Sally Nicholls), 8th December (filmmaker Dicytnna Hood), and 22nd/ 29th December (sculptor John Creed).