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Kevin John Hart (born 5 July 1954) is an Anglo-Australian theologian, philosopher and poet. He is currently Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies and Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Virginia.[1] As a theologian and philosopher, Hart's work epitomizes the "theological turn" in phenomenology, with a focus on figures like Maurice Blanchot, Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Luc Marion and Jacques Derrida. He has received multiple awards for his poetry, including the Christopher Brennan Award and the Grace Leven Prize for Poetry twice.


Hart was born on 6 July 1979 to James Henry Hart and his wife, Rosina Mary Wooton.[2] Hart's family moved to Brisbane, Australia, in 1966.[3] Hart attended secondary school at Oxley State High School,[3] and gained his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from the Australian National University.[4] Hart received his PhD from the University of Melbourne in 1986.[2] In 1991 he became Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Monash University, rising to full Professor in 1995 and also becoming Director of the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies and the Institute for Critical and Cultural Studies. He also taught in the Centre for Studies in Religion and Theology. Leaving Monash in 2002, he became Professor of Philosophy and Literature at the University of Notre Dame, a position he held until 2007, when he became Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies at the University of Virginia,[2] a position he holds as of 2019.[5]

Theology and literary criticismEdit

In his professional life, Kevin Hart is primarily known as a theologian who works in two areas: systematic theology and religion and literature. His work in systematic theology has not yet been collected into volumes but remains as uncollected essays and chapters. In general, Hart's approach is to ground theology in a phenomenology of the Christ, both a phenomenology of Jesus's words and actions, and an account of Jesus as performing epoche and reduction, especially through the parables. On Hart's understanding, the preaching of the Kingdom brings forth Christ's death and that preaching is confirmed by the Resurrection. His work on the Christian mystical tradition is focused on practices of contemplation.[6] In terms of religion and literature, Hart has written extensively on English and French poetry and Christianity, especially Christian mysticism. Recent work has converged on Geoffrey Hill.[7]

One facet of his work is extensive commentary on the writing of the atheist Maurice Blanchot to whom he has devoted four books: The Dark Gaze, The Power of Contestation, Nowhere without No, and Clandestine Encounters. Hart's analysis on Blanchot was praised by Peter Craven as combining "an attractive expository technique with an openness to speculative ideas".[8] His work on Jacques Derrida[9] and Samuel Johnson has also been praised,[10] although one critic said that Hart's work on Johnson was "dubious" "and inconsistent in approach".[11]


Hart's interests in poetry were piqued by an English teacher's presentation of Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias.[12] In addition to Shelley, Hart also cites T. S. Eliot, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Éluard, Vasko Popa, Zbigniew Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins as influences.[12] He first began writing poetry as a teenager, partly thanks to a Shelley anthology he had purchased and partly as an excuse to enjoy the Public Library's air conditioning during Brisbane's hot summers.[4]

Critics have noted religious and philosophical themes in Hart's poetry.[4][12][13] As Toby Davidson writes, "Kevin Hart's poetry cannot be separated from his multiple, enduring engagements with mysticism and mystical poetics. He is an innovator, suggesting new approaches to the mystical in the free facets of *attending*." [14] Michael Brennan notes that the philosophical connection stems out of Hart's "long study into phenomenology", specifically connecting Hart's "The Room" to Heidegger's philosophy.[15] Similarly, David McCooey detects the influence of Jacques Derrida, specifically Hart's use of metaphor an perspective.[16]

Erotic and sensual themes are also pronounced in Hart's work. Nathaniel O'Reilly notes, for example, that even though most criticism of Hart focuses on his religious themes, Hart is also an "intensely physical and sensual poet".[17] O'Reilly further says that Hart often links physical sensations with spiritual connections. Hart's volume Flame Tree was considered, then rejected, for the English Literature Victorian Certificate of Education in Victoria, Australia, on grounds of obscenity. The objectionable line was "My semen hot and wild inside your cunt." In his own defense, Hart claimed, "I was very surprised to think that the line could offend 18-year-olds these days. I suppose there will always be parents who are outraged about something in the curriculum.... In Australia ‘cunt’ is often used by lovers, women and men alike, and no offence need be given or taken. It can be said very tenderly...." [18]


Hart's poetry has garnered multiple awards, including the Greybeal-Gowen Prize for Poetry in 2008,[19] the John Shaw Neilson Poetry Award in 1977, the Mattara Poetry Award in 1982, 11the Wesley Michel Wright Award in 1984, the NSW Premier's Award in 1985, the Victorian Premier's Award in 1985, days wuiajathe Grace Leven Prize for Poetry in 1991 and 1996, the Christopher Brennan Award in 1999.[citation needed]

Critical response to Hart's poetry has varied. Harold Bloom, writing on the back cover of Kevin Hart's 1999 volume of poetry, Wicked Heat, strongly praised Hart, saying that he is the "most outstanding Australian poet of his generation", and one of "the major living poets in the English language".[20] Bloom also names Hart as one of the eleven canonical writers of Australia and New Zealand in his book, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, specifically praising Hart's book Peniel and Other Poems.[21] Other critics, such as Cyril Wong and Christian Sheppard, have also praised Hart's poetry.[22][23] Some critics such as Geoffrey Lehmann and Pam Brown, however, have expressed negative views of Hart's work.[24][25] while Christian Sheppard, reviewing the same volume, said "The primary pleasure of Hart's poetry, however, is an easy rhythmed, swiftly flowing line tracing the moment-by-moment impressions of an often impassioned yet always lucid mind".[23] Lehmann, for instance, found Hart's 2008 volume, Young Rain to be self-indulgent and lacking in clear, specific meaning.[24] Kevin Gardner, an American critic and professor, has noted that Hart’s poems "have an annoying tendency toward abstraction" and a "narcissistic symbolism" that frustrates with "surreal obfuscation." Examples from Hart's poems that Gardner cites include "the curved eyelids of a young hand," "you kiss / Like a slack orchid tongue in Cairns," death "folded tightly / Like a parachute," "let’s eat the splinters in the house," "And filch a little mouse called fear."[26]

Published worksEdit

Books of Poetry
  • The Departure, University of Queensland Press, 1978
  • The Lines of Your Hand, Angus & Robertson, 1981, ISBN 9780207143724
  • Your Shadow, HarperCollins Publishers Australia, 1984, ISBN 9780207149382
  • Peniel Golvan Arts, 1991. ISBN 9780646001524
  • New and Selected Poems HarperCollins Publishers, 1995, ISBN 9780207186011
  • Dark Angel, Dedalus Press, 1996, ISBN 9781873790878
  • Nineteen Songs, Vagabond Press, 1999
  • Wicked Heat Paper Bark Press, 1999, ISBN 9789057040764
  • Madonna, Vagabond Press, 2000
  • Flame Tree Bloodaxe, 2002, ISBN 9781852245450
  • Night Music, Lexicon House, 2003
  • Young Rain Bloodaxe Books, 2009, ISBN 9781852248291
  • Morning Knowledge, University of Notre Dame Press, 2011, ISBN 9780268030933


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 April 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b c Shivani Singh, ed. (2010). Who's Who in Australia. Crown Content Pty Ltd. p. 976.
  3. ^ a b McCooey, David (2002). "In Dialogue with Kevin Hart". Double Dialogues. 2003 (5). ISSN 1447-9591. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ a b c O'Reilly, Nathanael (July 2010). "Wet, Wicked and Wild: Manifestations of Heat in Kevin Hart's Poetry" (PDF). Indian Review of World Literature in English. Indian Institute of World Literature. 6 (2). ISSN 0974-097X.
  5. ^ "Kevin Hart – Department of Religious Studies, Arts & Sciences, U,Va". University of Virginia. Archived from the original on 8 April 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ Kevin Hart, "Contemplation: Beyond and Beneath," Sophia 48 (2009), 435–59
  7. ^ Kevin Hart, "God’s Little Mountains: Young Geoffrey Hill and the Problem of Religious Poetry," Sacred Worlds: Religion, Literature, and the Imagination (2009), ed. Mark Knight and Louise Lee (Continuum), 23–36; "Transcendence in Tears," Gazing Through a Prim Darkly, ed. Keith Putt (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009), 116–38; and "’it / is true,’" Words of Life: New Theological Turns in French Phenomenology, ed. Bruce Benson and Norman Wirzba (Fordham University Press), 68–86.
  8. ^ Craven, Peter (2001). The Best Australian Essays 2001. Blank Inc. ISBN 978-1-86395-091-6.
  9. ^ Taylor, Gregg (October 2001). "untitled review". The Journal of Religion. 81 (4): 667–668. doi:10.1086/490967. JSTOR 1206085.
  10. ^ McKenzie, Alan T. (Spring 2001). "Making the Wisdom Figure". Eighteenth-Century Studies. 34 (3): 466–470. doi:10.1353/ecs.2001.0030. JSTOR 30053994.
  11. ^ Turner, Katherine (November 2000). "untitled review". The Review of English Studies. 51 (204): 655–657. doi:10.1093/res/51.204.655. JSTOR 519277.
  12. ^ a b c Pradeep, Trikha (June 2010). "Receiving Unintended Gifts: An Interview with Kevin Hart". Antipodes. American Association of Australasian Literary Studies. 24 (1). ISSN 0893-5580.
  13. ^ Paul Kane, "Philosopher-Poets: John Koethe and Kevin Hart," Raritan 21: 1 (2001), 109–110
  14. ^ Toby Davidson "Beyond Reach of Language: Kevin Hart and Christian Mysticism," Literature and Theology 24: 3 (2010), 282
  15. ^ Michael Brennan, "In Absentia: Mourning and Friendship," Jacket 27 (2005)
  16. ^ McCooey, David (1995). "'Secret Truths': the Poetry of Kevin Hart". Southerly. 55 (4): 113.
  17. ^ Nathanael O'Reilly, IRWE 6: 2 (2010), 1
  18. ^ Paul Mitchell Interviews Kevin Hart
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 February 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Hart, Kevin (1999). Wicked Heat. Paper Bark Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-90-5704-076-4.
  21. ^ Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994), p 561
  22. ^ Wong, Cyril (November 2009). "Cyril Wong reviews Young Rain by Kevin Hart". Mascara Literary Review (6). Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  23. ^ a b Sheppard, Christian (2000). "(untitled review of Kevin Hart's Wicked Heat)". Chicago Review. 46 (1): 159–162. doi:10.2307/25304472. JSTOR 25304472.
  24. ^ a b Lehmann, Geoffrey (6 December 2008). "Poetic Intimacies to Be Shared". The Australian. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  25. ^ Brown, Pam. "Reviews of Five Books of Poems Published by Paperbark Pres". Archived from the original on 21 October 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2010. This review was published in a different version in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper in 2000.
  26. ^ Gardner, Kevin (2012). "(untitled eview of Kevin Hart's Morning Knowledge)". Religion and the Arts. 16 (6).

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