On Religion and Memory

On Religion and Memory

Babette Hellemans
Willemien Otten
Burcht Pranger
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    On Religion and Memory
    Book Description:

    This volume takes up the challenge implied in Augustine's paradox of time: How does one account for the continuity of history and the certitude of memory, if time, in the guise of an indivisible "now," cuts off any extension of the present? The thinkers and artists the essays address include Augustine, Abelard, Eriugena and Thoreau, Calvin, Shakespeare, De Rance, Stravinsky and Messiaen, Rubens and Woolf.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5164-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Babette Hellemans, Willemien Otten and Burcht Pranger
  5. Introduction: On Religion and Pastness
    (pp. 1-14)
    Burcht Pranger

    This volume brings together a number of studies dealing with the pastness of the religious, Christian past.¹ While it is generally accepted that temporality and historicity are constitutive elements of the Christian religion to the extent that Christianity is sometimes credited with being their founder, the actual status of timeinreligion is far from self-evident. First, there is the issue of the proximity of eternity as it hovers over each and every temporal manifestation of both Christian worship and reflective, religious language. This incarnation of timelessness inside the Catholic tradition was coined by Vincent of Lerinum in the crudest...

    • CHAPTER 1 The Vision at Ostia: Augustine’s Desire to Become a Red Indian
      (pp. 17-31)
      Burcht Pranger

      The concept of time that is central to this volume derives from Augustine’s aporetic notion of temporality as it has been handsomely summarized by Garry Wills—Wills, in turn, evoking Nabokov to support his own reading:

      Vladimir Nabokov had obviously been reading Augustine when he made Humbert Humbert describe his own self-awareness as “a continuous spanning [distentio] of two points, the storable future and the stored past” (Lolita, Section 26). Time is a shuttling of the future into the past, moving through an immeasurable point. “If we could suppose some particle of time which could not be divided into a...

    • CHAPTER 2 Memory and the Sublime: Wittgenstein on Augustine’s Trouble with Time
      (pp. 32-42)
      James Wetzel

      Augustine writes hisConfessionsunder the assumption that God’s experience of time must be radically different from his own. This assumption of his proves to be problematic, not for the unsurprising reason that Augustine is not God and so has little acquaintance with divine time-consciousness, but because Augustine, from his own time-bound point of view, finds that he cannot say what time is. He is clearly surprised by his loss for words. Time, he readily concedes, is a frequent topic of human conversation. Everyone talks about time. We are all, in various ways, obsessed with the subject—time being a...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Man without Memory: Peter Abelard and Trust in History
      (pp. 45-63)
      Babette Hellemans

      In the first section of this volume (on Augustine and Wittgenstein) it has been pointed out how the structure of language becomes scattered in the realm of history, especially when language uttered by the “confessional self” is at issue. This article will turn toward a more theoretical approach of this problem. It seeks to explore how one of the most famous confessional accounts in Western history,The History of My Misfortunes, dismantles the historical status of language up to the point of facing an abyss of oblivion. Peter Abelard (1079–1142) represents the central figure of this document. Multitalented, Abelard...

    • CHAPTER 4 Creation and Epiphanic Incarnation: Reflections on the Future of Natural Theology from an Eriugenian-Emersonian Perspective
      (pp. 64-88)
      Willemien Otten

      Why should there be an essay about nature in a volume about temporality? In terms of Christian theology one may be inclined to say that time is all about linearity and horizontal progression, while nature is about God’s vertical intervention in the world, styled in the final analysis as his single-handed invention of it. The latter position is what has become reified over time in the locus ofcreatio ex nihilo, which continues to be the dominant way in which Christian theology thinks and speaks about nature. All this seems to point to a chasm rather than a connection between...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Care of the Past: The Place of Pastness in Transgenerational Projects
      (pp. 89-99)
      Charles Hallisey

      It is not hard to find in different religious communities a concern for transgenerational projects, those human projects that by their very nature assume that many individuals and communities will participate in them, care for them, across time, in different times and places. Transgenerational projects are always ongoing and appear in history as-yet-unfinished projects. They exist only in time—indeed exist at all only in history—through the efforts of persons who do not live in the same time or place but who, by virtue of imagination and self-understanding, are able to join together with each other in a common...

    • CHAPTER 6 Trembling in Time: Silence and Meaning between Barthes, Chateaubriand, and Rancé
      (pp. 100-120)
      Mette Birkedal Bruun

      Thus speak Chateaubriand and Barthes about transcending time. Each steeped in his time, the former lingers with the work of the genius on the verge of death; the latter with the mystery of the fragmented. Time transcended, time confirmed. Barthes took up this duplexity in his essay “La voyageuse de nuit” (1965) on Chateaubriand’sVie de Rancé(1844), and with his involvement with the viscount inherited, so to speak, Chateaubriand’s own engagement with the seventeenth-century Cistercian Armand-Jean de Rancé. Barthes cast Chateaubriand’s biographical and autobiographical volume as a literary masterpiece on a courtier whose monastic profession became his authorial suicide...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Literary Comfort of Eternity: Calvin and Thoreau
      (pp. 123-136)
      Ernst van den Hemel

      Calvin’s theology has a peculiar relationship to the comfort that eternity can bring. In Calvin scholarship, a polemic has ensued between those who believe that there is a clear break between Calvin and the later Calvinists who transformed his Calvinist theology into an orthodox and overly philosophical Calvinist doctrine,² on the one hand, and those that uphold that in fact there is a straight line from Calvin to the writers of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Puritans.³ In this article I will argue that both sides of the debate make implicit claims about the ambivalent status of the...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Past and History in Ordinary Language Philosophy
      (pp. 137-152)
      Asja Szafraniec

      An attempt to address temporality from the point of view of ordinary language philosophy may appear to be self-defeating—so elusive is the topic in the work of its major exponents, Ludwig Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, and Stanley Cavell. This elusiveness fosters the idea that ordinary language philosophy is generally hostile to historical approaches. For example, when addressing Cavell’s attitude to the history of philosophy, Richard Fleming attributes to Cavell treating the latter “as that which is in tension with the ordinary,” and treating “the history of philosophy as a flight from the ordinary.”¹ At the same time, Fleming hints...

    • CHAPTER 9 From Past to Present and from Listening to Hearing: Final Indefinable Moments in Bach’s and Stravinsky’s Music
      (pp. 155-174)
      Rokus de Groot

      On May 15, 1999, the main organizer of Indian music concerts in Amsterdam, John Eijlers, decided to launch a completely different approach to music performance.¹ At the beginning of a recital at the Theatre of the Royal Tropical Institute he declared that the time had come to end applause from the public, even as the last musical sounds are still moving through the hall. To Eijlers, Indian classical music was not a common form of art. It meant to him the manifestation of cosmic vibrations presenting themselves through the finest musical sound waves. Listening to it would offer the listener...

    • CHAPTER 10 Late Style Messiaen
      (pp. 175-186)
      Sander van Maas

      What is the role of time in the work of a religious artist? This question shall guide my ruminations in this essay.

      For most religious artists some relation with the eternal—that is, it seems, with the square opposite of time—appears to be part of their creative program. Religious works of art often aim to express, symbolize, allegorize, or perhaps even capture some aspect of the timeless realms of nirvana, the heavens, mystical union, or else. In a stronger sense one could argue that religious art is dependent on eternity by definition and that, therefore, temporal aspects should have...

    • CHAPTER 11 Of Shakespeare and Pastness
      (pp. 189-203)
      Brian Cummings

      Shakespeare, it is often said, is a writer neither of the past nor of the future but of the continuous present. From his first posthumous entry into the world in the complete works edition of 1623, he was described (in an epigraph to the First Folio by his own contemporary Ben Jonson) as a poet who transcended time. He is a monument without a tomb, and lives on, as long as his books do live. To sing his praises properly we must call the ancient tragic poets of Athens back to life to witness our modern poet on the stage...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Anger of Angels: From Rubens to Virginia Woolf
      (pp. 204-230)
      Peter Cramer

      In the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford is a drawing of Rubens’ entitledLandscape with Mill Buildings. The drawing is in pen and ink on gray “stone-coloured” paper.¹ The lines appear to have been made with the rapidity and the fluency of what is drawn from life, and even the nonchalance of the virtuoso capable of perceiving the scene as an organized whole and then without strain executing this whole through equal attention to the parts that make it up. The parts correspond to one another to the point where the beholder is inclined to believe in...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 231-268)
  12. List of Contributors
    (pp. 269-276)