Interstices of the Sublime: Theology and Psychoanalytic Theory

Interstices of the Sublime: Theology and Psychoanalytic Theory

John D. Caputo series editor
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Interstices of the Sublime: Theology and Psychoanalytic Theory
    Book Description:

    Interstices of the Sublime represents a powerful theological engagement with psychoanalytic theory in Freud, Lacan, Kristeva and Zizek, as well as major expressions of contemporary Continental philosophy, including Deleuze, Derrida, Marion, and Badiou. Through creative and constructive psycho-theological readings of topics such as sublimation, schizophrenia, God, and creation ex nihilo, this book contributes to a new form of radical theological thinking that is deeply involved in the world. Here the idea of the Kantian sublime is read into Freud and Lacan, and compared with sublimation. The sublime refers to a conflict of the Kantian faculties of reason and imagination, and involves the attempt to represent what is intrinsically unrepresentable. Sublimation, by contrast, involves the expression and partial satisfaction of primal desires in culturally acceptable terms. The sublime is negatively expressed in sublimation, because it is both the sourceof sublimation as well as that which resists being sublimated. That is, the Freudian sublime is related to the process of sublimation, but it also distorts or disrupts sublimation, and invokes what Lacan calls the Real. The effects of the sublime are not just psychoanalytic but, importantly, theological, because the sublime is the main form that Godtakes in the modern world. A radical postmodern theology attends to the workings of the sublime in our thinking and living, and provides resources to understand the complexity of reality. This book is one of the first sustained theological readings of Lacan in English.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4800-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    In this book I conduct an investigation of important religious, theological, and psychoanalytic concepts, primarily through a reading of sublimation. Sublimation is a privileged term that is closely connected with the notion of the sublime, a Kantian term that also has psychoanalytic and theological connotations. Investigating sublimation and the sublime as important terms for theological discourse brings together psychoanalytic theory from Freud to Lacan, Kristeva, and Žižek along with more conventional philosophical discourses, including contemporary continental philosophy. To orient ourselves toward considering the significance of psychoanalysis for thinking about religious and theological topics, I will begin with a concrete example...

  5. 1 On Sublimation The Significance of Psychoanalysis for the Study of Religion
    (pp. 18-36)

    Amid the multitudinous variety of historical, ethnographic, and cultural studies taking place within the academy, one can detect a certain crisis or at least confusion regarding theoretical discourse about religion. This confusion refers to the felt discord among heterogeneous languages and incommensurable modes of description and questioning. Such languages include traditional theology, analytic philosophy of religion, hermeneutics and other symbolic-semiotic languages, methodological approaches to the history of religions, and various forms of postmodernism. This confusion is felt at the same time as religion is being taken up by many philosophers and theorists as an important topic for understanding, in part...

  6. 2 We Are All Mad Theology in the Shadow of a Black Sun
    (pp. 37-50)

    Schizophrenia usually refers to the most representative case of psychoanalytic or psychiatric pathology or psychosis. Taken as a problem, however, schizophrenia concerns not simply a medical diagnosis but a condition that implicates all of human culture and signification.¹ In this chapter I do not want to settle the question of schizophrenia by locating it or attributing it to a particular and determinate region of discourse, be it political, cosmological, or psychological. I want rather to write schizophrenia large as a profound problem that is ultimately a theological problem. In this effort I want to resist any simple assimilation of theological...

  7. 3 Desiring the Thing The Ethics of Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 51-67)

    In this chapter I suggest that conventional ethics, which is oriented toward the good, is challenged by psychoanalytic theory. Lacan’s work allows us to distinguish between desire for the Other, which is limited to symbolic language, and desire for the Thing, which lies beyond the symbolic in the Real. Primarily by reading Lacan’s discussion of the Thing inThe Ethics of Psychoanalysis, I relate the idea of the Thing to the idea of God, which later becomes the focus of chapter 8, where I contrast Lacan with Jean-Luc Marion’s understanding of God as Good rather than as Being. The desire...

  8. 4 Foreclosing God Heidegger, Lacan, and Kristeva
    (pp. 68-80)

    Despite his explicit separation of the concepts of God and Being, Martin Heidegger, in his later philosophy, treats them with a certain structural similarity.¹ That is, both God and Being lie beyond the calculating attempts to possess and wield them by a technological society bent on mastery. At the same time, however, this very technological epoch is a determination of Being, or in theBeiträge zur Philosophie, a result of the “flight of the last God.”² TheBeiträge, unpublished until 1989, lays out a foundation for Heidegger’s later thought, and provides the connection upon which the “turning” (Kehre) fromDasein...

  9. 5 Anxiety and the S(ub)lime Body of God
    (pp. 81-96)

    In his early career, Freud understood anxiety as a response to repression, but in a later work he reversed himself, arguing that anxiety is primary. In this chapter I argue that anxiety is fundamentally related to the body as well as tojouissance, which refers to a fascination with the process of expelling body to create a subject orcogito. This bodily remainder, which sometimes takes the form of slime, generates enormous anxiety, at the individual, social, and theological levels. Following Lacan’s formulas of sexuation distinguishing between the exception (man) and the not-all (woman), Slavoj Žižek applies this distinction to...

  10. 6 Ages of the World and Creation ex Nihilo, Part I Tillich and Schelling
    (pp. 97-116)

    According to Lacan, Freud described the reception of psychoanalysis in the United States by stating, “they don’t realize we’re bringing them the plague.”¹ This statement refers to the simple-minded embrace of Freudian psychoanalysis by many of its American adherents (which Lacan attacked), although Freud knew full well that many opponents of psychoanalysis did treat it like a destructive plague. This description of the reception of psychoanalysis could also refer to the contemporary American reception of postmodernism. On the one hand, many scholars dismiss recent French philosophy as irrational, nihilistic, or irresponsible—that is, as a plague—whereas many proponents of...

  11. 7 Ages of the World and Creation ex Nihilo, Part II Žižek and Lacan
    (pp. 117-132)

    An account of Tillich’s significance for contemporary theology, as well as the discussion of Tillich’s appropriation of Schelling in theSystematic Theologyin chapter 6, serves as background for the consideration of Žižek’s interpretation of Schelling in this chapter. At the conclusion of this chapter I will reconsider Tillich’s understanding of creation in relation to Lacan’s discussion of creation inThe Ethics of Psychoanalysis, in which creationex nihilorefers explicitly to the creation of a signifier. In the meantime, Žižek’s psychoanalytic reading of Schelling will be explicated and critiqued. On the one hand, Žižek provides an exciting interpretation that...

  12. 8 God Without Being (God) A Lacanian Critique of Jean-Luc Marion
    (pp. 133-147)

    How can we think about God, especially in light of psychoanalytic theory from Freud to Lacan? Postmodern theology is currently assessing notions of God liberated from the constraints of being, stimulated by the work of Jean-Luc Marion. Does Lacan’s thought provide resources to think differently about some of these important discussions inspired by Marion concerning God without being?

    With the publication and translation ofGod Without Being, Jean-Luc Marion has emerged as one of the significant voices in postmodern theology. In response to Heidegger, Marion provides a thinking of God that exceeds ontological difference or the distinction between being and...

  13. 9 Expressing the Real Lacan and the Limits of Language
    (pp. 148-164)

    Taking the triad imaginary-symbolic-Real as representative of Lacan’s consistent and core thought, one can detect a shift in emphasis from the symbolic to the Real over the course of his intellectual career, as described in chapter 3. From his conception of the mirror stage expressed in his addresses to the International Congress of Psychoanalysis to his early seminars in the 1950s, Lacan’s early work focuses on the differentiation of the imaginary and the symbolic. The attention to symbolic discourse, and the identification of desire as the expression of the subject’s speech, carries with it an ethical bent—to traverse the...

  14. 10 Processing the Real Sub-stance
    (pp. 165-180)

    In the last chapter I discussed Lacan’sSeminar XXas an attempt to express the Real that lies at the limit of language. I acknowledged the broadly Platonic aspect of Lacan’s thought, which becomes more explicit in the work of Alain Badiou. At the same time, my reading ofBenito Cerenois also a critique of Badiou’s Platonism, or at least an effort to complicate the limit of language in a profound way. In chapter 8 I discussed Lacan’s critique of Aristotelian utilitarianism; that is, an understanding of Aristotle’sNicomachean Ethicsthat privileges goods, or the Good, especially as it...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-188)

    The problem of thinking is a problem of sublimation. To have language, meaning, and thereby religion, science, culture, and art, there must be sublimation in a broad sense. This book has traced some of the intricacies of sublimation through psychoanalytic theory as it impresses upon theology. Sublimation means that meaning is not direct and unmediated but consists of a detour. At the same time, my readings of theology, continental philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory suggest that sublimation is not an elevation above a material reality. In chapter 1, I appealed to Deleuze to question the two-level model of reality that sublimation...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 189-214)
  17. Index
    (pp. 215-216)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-220)