Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent

Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent

Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent

Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent

Excerpt

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 to global climate change. Although none of them wrote out of an awareness of what the others were doing, their reflections on material spirit share several interrelated threads that seem an intimate result of their literary-theoretical and paraliterary moods.

The first and most obvious commonality is a conception of “the sacred” as a question of immanence rather than transcendence—or perhaps of “immanent transcendence,” as one of the writers, Richard Kearney, puts it, in an echo of the “material spirit” paradox itself, and as the subtitle of this volume seeks to mark with a verbal aberration, “intranscendent.” a second commonality is the conviction that the reading of religion need not be oriented toward a renewal of religiosity but potentially has more subversive effects. and third, among those effects might be the continued possibility of a certain paradoxical kind of experience: of that which is not quite religious but which also is not entirely beyond the scope of the reli-

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