Fragmentation and Memory: Meditations onyChristian Doctrine

Fragmentation and Memory: Meditations onyChristian Doctrine

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Fragmentation and Memory: Meditations onyChristian Doctrine
    Book Description:

    Philosophers have long and skeptically viewed religion as a source of overeasy answers, with a singular, totalizing Godand the comfort of an immortal soul being the greatest among them. But religious thought has always been more interesting-indeed, a rich source of endlessly unfolding questions.With questions from the 1885 Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church as the starting point for each chapter, Karmen MacKendrick offers postmodern reflections on many of the central doctrines of the Church: the oneness of God, original sin, forgiveness, love and its connection to mortality, reverence for the relics of saints, and the doctrine of bodily resurrection. She maintains that we begin and end in questions and not in answers, in fragments and not in totalities-more precisely, in a fragmentation paradoxically integralto wholeness.Taking seriously Augustine's idea that we find the divine in memory, MacKendrick argues that memory does not lead us back in time to a tidy answer but opens onto a complicated and fragmented time in which we find that the one and the many, before and after and now, even sacred and profane are complexly entangled. Time becomes something lived, corporeal, and sacred, with fragments of eternity interspersed among the stretches of its duration. Our sense of ourselves is correspondingly complex, because theological considerations leadus not to the security of an everlasting, indivisible soul dwelling comfortably in the presence of a paternal deity but to a more complicated, perpetually peculiar, and paradoxical life in the flesh.Written out of MacKendrick's extensive background in both recent and late-ancient philosophy, this moving and poetic book can also be an inspiration to anyone, scholar or lay reader, seeking to find contemporary significance in these ancient theological doctrines.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4786-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: On Having Forgotten
    (pp. 1-8)

    Invariably, I have forgotten how to write.

    This invariant fact, emerging early in every writing project, is, nevertheless, just as invariably a surprise. I always forget that I have always forgotten. Beginning to write anything, I realize that I have no idea how to do so—how to draw together (sculpturally or choreographically or musically) the frequently dissonant elements whose togetherness is somehow going to be the point of the book. I have, in other words, forgotten writing, both before and after writing; forgotten how I have done and how I will do something that, in fact, I do nearly...

    (pp. 9-31)

    As the introduction has already hinted, the effort to clarify conceptually the thematic commonality of this text proves exasperating, perhaps appropriately so. How can one say together, and in some kind of order, discussions of fragmentation and scatteredness in time? How does one remind oneself and one’s readers of what seems always to participate in forgetfulness? The brief and highly selective glance at history offered in this introductory chapter is one way into the questions of memory and fragmentation, a not quite nostalgic survey of the pull of the question of the one and the many, and the force of...

    (pp. 32-54)

    Glossing what he calls the “strange and wondrous” Leibnizian theory of damnation, Gilles Deleuze writes inThe Fold, “the damned, Judas or Beelzebub, does not pay retribution for a past action but for the hate of God that constitutes the present amplitude of his soul and fills it in the present. He is not damnedfora past action, butbya present action that he renews at every moment.”¹ Such damnation, then, partakes not only of an unexpected agency—one can only damn oneself, and that by an insistent (hateful) relational mode—but also of a peculiar temporality. It...

    (pp. 55-83)

    If we begin with the question of sin, whether original or derivative, an obvious consequent question is that of forgiveness. Forgiveness is an elusive notion; as the opening catechismic questions indicate, it appears sacramentally as reconciliation (formerly designated penance, itself an interesting terminological shift), and it is understood to obtain between persons as well as between human and divine—though all of its modes are often, following Alexander Pope, given the latter designation.¹ If we follow Deleuze’s Leibniz, then it would seem that God’s forgiveness must be our own: that is, in forgiving God we must find ourselves forgiven (the...

    (pp. 84-105)

    The commandment to love, referred to in this chapter’s catechismic query and response, is given in several New Testament gospels,¹ largely repeating Leviticus 19:18 (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”). Yet love seems even less readily commanded than does forgiveness, and in fact the passages cited here don’t legislate in a conventional sense. Eckhart writes of Luke’s version (“Love God above all and your neighbor as yourself”): “This is a commandment from God. But I say that it is not only a commandment but that God has given us this as a gift and has promised to give us...

  9. 5 DISMEMBERED DIVINITY: Saints’ Relics
    (pp. 106-131)

    In this chapter I want to talk about the relics of saints, about their paradoxical play between fragmentation and wholeness, vitality and mortality, sacrality and profanity, and about the kinds of memory at work in the display and understanding of these bodily bits, the kinds of temporality thus evoked. Relics, while no longer central to the structure of churches or most habits of worship, retain a persistent fascination. They literalize the body’s fragmentation, but they suggest a peculiar persistence of wholeness, too (a persistence upon which the next chapter will pick up as well). As Patricia Cox Miller notes of...

  10. 6 ETERNAL FLESH: The Resurrection of the Body
    (pp. 132-148)

    In this last question and answer we find, with typical catechismic succinctness, one of the most intriguingly odd of Christian notions: once we correct for the lingering gender bias, we are faced with the notion that human “immortality” is something somatic, or, to put it differently, that human corporeality is something immortal. Here we seem to find no fragmentation at all—indeed, integrity (or “entirety”) is one of the signs of the resurrected flesh. But I will argue that we find once more a particular fragmenting of the experience of time, a fragmenting that gives eternity to life. The role...

  11. AFTERWORD: On Returning to Memory
    (pp. 149-152)

    Without our help, says Jabès, the work of writing is done and undone, carrying within itself elusive reminders of all of the books that could have opened out from any point of it. Without our help, but with our necessary participation, as we work, unwork, and rework texts until they are ready, which is not to say that they are (ever) completed, ever finished.Consummatum non est. Our books do not provide answers but return to questions, with their origins in repetition; having spoken out of an urgent word-generating wish to speak (we have done nothing but wish to speak),...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 153-178)
    (pp. 179-188)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 189-196)