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Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent

Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent
    Book Description:

    The essays in this collection examine philosophical, religious, and literary or artistic texts using methodologies and insights that have grown out of reflection on literature and art. In them, them phrase "material spirit" becomes a point of departure for considering the continuing spectral effects of religious texts and concerns in ways that do not simply call for, or assume, new orrenewed forms of religiosity. The writers in this collection seek to examine religion beyond traditional notions of transcendence: Their topics range from early Christian religious practices to global climate change. Some of the essays explore religious themes or tones in literary texts, for example, works by Wordsworth, Hopkins, Proust, Woolf, and Teresa of Avila. Others approach in a literarycritical mood philosophical or para-philosophical writers such as Bataille, Husserl, Derrida, and Benjamin. Still others treat writers of a more explicitly religious orientation, such as Augustine, Rosenzweig, or Bernard of Clairvaux.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5544-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The authors in this collection were given a simple invitation: to write on the topic—or paradox—of “material spirit.” No limitations or parameters were specified for their contributions save a request that they speak to contemporary concerns in the study of religion and whenever possible take into consideration the relation between religion and literature by drawing on the language and concepts of literary and critical theory in the treatment of questions that might ordinarily be considered more proper to religion or theology. The authors responded with essays on an array of subjects, ranging from religious practices in early Christianity...

  4. Eucharistic Imaginings in Proust and Woolf
    (pp. 11-34)

    In this essay I look at how two pioneers of modernist fiction, Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf, bore witness to the return of the sacred. Neither was a believer in any orthodox confessional sense. Though each was deeply marked by a religious education and upbringing—Woolf as a Protestant and Proust as someone with a mixed Christian-Jewish background—neither adopted or advanced an overtly theistic position. Conventional wisdom might even suggest the contrary, namely, that Proust was a secular sensualist and Woolf a humanist aesthete (how otherwise to make sense of her response to the news that T. S. Eliot...

  5. Impossible Confessions
    (pp. 35-48)

    In a roundtable presentation from 1944, published under the title “Discussion on Sin,” Georges Bataille levels against Christianity the harshest possible condemnation: he declares it boring. As regards most of both Christian practice and doctrine, this criticism holds up pretty well. But there have always been other strains in Christianity, as Bataille himself sometimes acknowledges—when he isn’t declaring himself purely hostile to all its versions¹—and some of those strains have been interesting in very Bataillean ways—cruel, sacrificial, or perverse. Indeed, it is a Christian priest (well, a Jesuit) who declares in the discussion, “For me, spiritual comfort...

  6. The Third Life of Saint Teresa of Jesus
    (pp. 49-58)

    In thisvillancicoby Saint Teresa of Jesus,¹ the verb “to die” has three meanings: it designates the psychical and physical act by which the soul uncouples itself from the body in order to start heading down the way of dust (the physical death mentioned in the second half of the refrain, “… because I do not die”); it signifies the terrible suffering undergone by one who “experiences” God but does not die physically and thus definitively leave behind the prison of the body (the agony of this world, given expression in the first part of the refrain, “For I...

  7. Renunciation and Absorption: On the Dimensionality of Baroque Asceticism
    (pp. 59-72)

    In 2010 the National Gallery of London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., organized an exhibition on seventeenth-century Spanish painting and sculpture under the nameThe Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600–1700. The exhibition curators sought to show how the realism of the paintings of Velázquez, Ribalta, Zurbarán, and others had its roots in the artists’ sculptural approach to rendering figures and scenes in a two-dimensional medium. In turn, the painted, polychromed religious sculptures of the era represented real life—the real life of Christ, Mary, and the saints, that is. The most popular...

  8. “For the Life Was Manifested”
    (pp. 73-93)

    What is it to hear with Christian ears, to see with Christian eyes, to touch with Christian hands? It would be, first of all, to live in a full, rich interpretation of the first epistle of John, to live in response to “the life” that “was manifested” (1 John 1:2), that “was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled” (1 John 1:1).¹ It would be a matter of “bear[ing] witness” to that life, of showing others “that eternal life, which was with the...

  9. Augustine, Rosenzweig, and the Possibility of Experiencing Miracle
    (pp. 94-110)

    At a crucial turning point in hisStar of Redemption, Franz Rosenzweig raises the question of “the possibility of experiencing miracle.” In so doing, he draws inspiration from Augustine’sCity of God. The pursuit of the “trace of Augustine” in Rosenzweig’s magnum opus is no easy task, however, as Francesco Paolo Ciglia’s recent research in this area has shown.³ According to Rosenzweig’s own framing,Staris a work initially conceived “in the form of a biblical commentary” but finally written “under erasure of the text [unter Weglassung des Texts].”⁴ Editing out his sources, biblical or otherwise, the German-Jewish philosopher hopes...

  10. “Come forth into the light of things”: Material Spirit as Negative Ecopoetics
    (pp. 111-128)

    The figure of light, along with the darkness that is implicitly or explicitly always summoned as its opposite, has played a central and hitherto under-researched role in the history of Euro-Western dualism, the discursive structures and social ramifications of which have been the target of numerous cultural critiques (variously, and in various conjunctions, deconstructive, feminist, postcolonial, antiracist, queer, ecophilosophical, and zoocritical) since the 1970s.¹ Emerging from its mythic association with a series of solar deities and their kingly representatives on earth in the ancient agrarian civilizations of the Mediterranean region, and set to work metaphysically within classical Greek and patristic...

  11. The Angel and the Storm: “Material Spirit” in the Era of Climate Change
    (pp. 129-153)

    It isbad timingfor the global economic system to enter a self-feeding black hole—at least from the perspective of “climate change.” The economic implosions of the credit collapse have, essentially, foreclosed any geopolitical will to address the gathering indicators of ecocatastrophic logics, had that ever been plausible. The interplay between the economic and ecological, the “eco-eco” disaster, tends to occlude the exponential curves of issues that lie outside the screen—collapsing marine life, mass extinction events, “peak” everything (oil, humans, water …), projections of “population culling,” and so on. The Ponzi scheme of hypermodernity extending the depletion of...

  12. The Material Working of Spirit
    (pp. 154-174)

    “Material spirit.” “Material!” “Spirit!” These two words taken together, or either word taken separately, are endlessly suggestive. That is especially true if you hear behind or beside them their semantic variants. For “material”: “materiality,” “matter,” “immaterial,” and so on, in all the different ways these words may be used in sentences, such as “It’s immaterial what format you use.” For “spirit”: “spiritual,” “spiritualism,” “spiritualist,” “spirituous,” “spirited,” “dispirited,” “in good spirits,” “out of spirits,” and so on, as in “His indulgence in spirituous liquors kept him in high spirits.” Cavafy’s drinking of spirits embodied those spirits in his emotions and feelings,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 175-204)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 205-218)
  15. List of Contributors
    (pp. 219-222)
  16. Index
    (pp. 223-228)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-238)