The Mutilating God: Authorship and Authority in the Narrative of Conversion


"This theoretically sophisticated yet highly readable study presents a genealogy of the uses of conversion narratives in linking individual identity to various forms of social authority. In The Mutilating God, Gerald Peters shows how these narratives have been used in different ways to negotiate between private motivation and social authority in the production of an identity. Drawing on theories of Freud and Lacan, Peters traces the evolution of the conversion narrative from primitive initiation rituals through the classical and Christian traditions to poetic uses in modern literature. He examines works by Plato, St. Paul, St. Augustine, Montaigne, de Sade, Rousseau, De Quincey, Carlyle, Joyce, Rilke, Orwell, and Kafka, focusing particularly on writers of the modern period. Peters argues that the concept of conversion can be connected to the magical transformations of the human body in the initiation practices of early cultures. In later monotheistic or "logos" centered societies, these rituals were transformed into the narrative patterns and metaphors that link individual identity with metaphysically grounded forms of social unity and power. In the modern world conversion narratives have become a means of both liberation and coercion. If they have become a strategy by which individualized identities undermine traditional forms of social authority, they are also, ultimately, the means by which political entities impose their ideological visions of totality on others." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved