Entangled Voices: Genre and the Religious Construction of the Self

By Frederick J. Ruf | Go to book overview

no other reason than its ummediated diversity of voices. In fact, as I noted, Ricoeur does not distinguish drama from narrative and principally uses Aristotle's discussion of tragedy to derive "concordant discordance." 18

The "discordances" that Ricoeur describes in narrative--the "fearful and pitiable incidents," the surprises, and the reversals--are, therefore, much stronger in drama, and to the degree that intelligibility is achieved in drama (and it is, even in Beckett or Robert Wilson), it is much closer to Ricoeur's "concordance of discordance" than narrative can achieve.

In sum, what are the religious consequences of drama, at least the consequences for the intelligibility of the self, others, and the world? Drama tends to make intelligibility a project. It is tempting, in fact, to say that the reader or audience of drama is in the position of the lyric "I," in the process of making sense of surroundings that are full of surprises, that delight and terrify. Even if we assign the soliloquy to a lyric aside, drama still incorporates limitedness and relativity. As each character struggles with himself or herself, other persons, and fate, the reader or audience struggles with intelligibility. The scope of that intelligibility has, as I explained, neither the breadth of narrative nor the intensity of lyric but a kind of middle ground. It makes us social, public creatures, acting and listening without access to the psyche or the magisterial view.


Conclusions

The three basic genres as I have discussed them in these two chapters offer readers three different voices. Those voices, I argue (not originally), become paradigms of personhood, revealing different natures of one's self, one's surroundings (including others), and one's relation to those surroundings. More specifically, those voices display different senses of intelligibility. I hope it is clear from the foregoing that in this regard, each of these basic genres has distinctive advantages and disadvantages. My conclusion is that we should be clearheaded in our view of any of them. Perhaps humans cannot live without the sort of broad comprehensiveness and unified cohesion that narrative promises and that, in many respects, humans attempt to apply to their lives. But the detachment and hubris that accompany such scope must give pause. Similarly with lyric: Humans require the hush of intimacy, the centripe-

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