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This chapter discusses David Jasper’s notion of theological thinking, as this concept is briefly outlined in the 1995 text “From Theology to Theological Thinking”. It does so by relating sketchily to an early personal encounter with David Jasper on the part of the author, when he faced Jasper with an idea of writing a dialectical post-Christian theology. Jasper was somewhat sceptical about the idea and suggested that theology should rather be post-Ecclesial. The author was rather perplexed by this comment at the time, but in due course realized that they each had very different emphases, despite a profound agreement on certain fundamental cultural issues. This chapter describes Jasper’s notion of theological thinking and puts it in contact with his later works, which may be seen as a kind of post-Ecclesial liturgical writing. This complex is put in relation to the author's own notion of post-Christian theology. The author aims for a more comprehensive critical theoretical perspective that may open up new horizons in radical theology.
This essay outlines Brecht’s relation to Marxism along three dimensions. First, it examines his Marxist influences including Karl Marx, V. I. Lenin, Karl Korsch, and Fritz Sternberg. Second, it explores Marxist reactions to him, particularly those of Georg Lukács and Theodor Adorno. Lastly, it investigates his influences on Marxist thought vis-à-vis Walter Benjamin, Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Rancière, and others. It shows that not only was his work heavily influenced by the movement, his thought also occupies an often-unrecognized central position within it.
Richard III, which has been described as Shakespeare’s most Senecanesque play, inhabits a middle ground between tragedy and history play. Because it focuses on the rise and fall of its title character, it is sometimes thought of as a precursor for later tragedies like Macbeth. Such readings emphasize the flamboyant, villainous agency of the play’s central antihero. When Richard III is read as a chronicle history play, however, it can be seen as being about how its central character’s monstrosity is overtaken by providential history. This chapter argues that the resulting ambiguity of perspective is built into the play’s Senecan inheritance. The first section examines paradoxes concerning human agency and temporal cause and effect in Senecan tragedy, and it looks at plays – like Octavia, Ecerinis, and The Spanish Tragedy – that are imitative of that tradition. Then the chapter reads Richard III as a sophisticated, Senecan examination of the dialectic between self-assertion and external predetermination. This Senecan dialectic underpins aspects of Richard’s character that have been read brilliantly in recent criticism via highly theorized postmodern ideas about character and psychology: here Seneca is a silent partner in the creation of one of Shakespeare’s most presciently modern-seeming characters.
King Lear is structured by a surprisingly comprehensive and sustained engagement with Senecan tragedy. The play is about the collapse of society, and the antisocial nature of Senecan tragedy is its major intertextual resource for thinking about the tragic self in relation to community. The play’s first two acts draw heavily on Senecan language to imagine Lear’s furious response to his daughter’s independence. The middle portion of the play, especially the part with Lear in the storm, interrogates a style of high-flown Senecan rhetoric as the voice of a tragic brand of solipsism. The final movement of the play draws heavily on scenes of fraught and partial reconciliation in Seneca’s Hercules Furens and Phoenissae. Since the 1960s, King Lear has been celebrated as the preeminent dramatic representation of deracinated modern subjectivity, at once uplifting and corrosively skeptical. The play has come to be seen as a representative example of the type of modernist allegory Benjamin finds in Trauerspiel – as a representation of what it means to be human after having lost the ability to feel like part of any larger whole. But since Shakespeare achieves this via Seneca, it may be worth revisiting how modern the perspective actually is.
Drawing upon Carl Schmitt’s idea of the katechon - a theological figure of the ‘restrainer’ - it is argued that two different accounts of ‘restraint’ operate within contemporary historiography. In one, the USA and the Soviet Union assume the role of the katechon during the Cold War, holding at bay an earthly apocalypse, securing stability through their mutual enmity. In the other, liberal account, it is the Cold War itself that acts as the restrainer, holding back the promises of Kant’s enlightenment project of world government, and of the securing of global peace through law. Each of these accounts has problematic effects: either by operating as an apology for the power of the guarantors of order, or by denying/deferring responsibility for the present state of affairs. We are therefore asked to think, instead, about international law and its history through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s conception of ‘weak messianic power’.
“Paris Profanely Illuminated” explores the “Circe” episode’s relation to 1920s Paris. It situates “Circe” at the origins of the Surrealist movement, showing the influence on the episode of the first Surrealist play, Apollinaire’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias, and the influence of the episode on the first Surrealist novel, Aragon’s Le Paysan de Paris. Tracing the influence of Joyce’s sentient thinking, it reexamines Benjamin’s reception of Surrealism, uncovering the influence of Joyce’s materially embedded reflection on the literary and conceptual experiments of a theorist who struggles with the nature of theory following the collapse of critical distance. The chapter examines Benjamin’s conceptions, in his 1929 essay “Surrealism: Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia” and the Arcades Project, of the profane illumination and the body-image space. It argues for the relevance of the nonrational, sensual modes of engagement Benjamin describes in the Arcades Project for the interpretation of Finnegans Wake.
“Paris Compounded” argues that the text of Finnegans Wake prompts readers to engage in sentient thinking. Joyce’s last work stages a heterogeneous and potentially limitless profusion that resists any preconceived order and disallows the passive reception associated with the commodity and with authoritarian discourse. The chapter situates the Wake’s textual assemblages within the literary practices of Paris of 1910 and 1920, showing that Joyce’s problematization of value and meaning are indebted to Apollinaire’s verbal montages but also, and more particularly, to Alfred Jarry, whose pataphysics deploys scatology, Lucretian materialism, and coincidentia oppositorum in an avant-garde mode. The chapter draws on the aesthetic theories of Benjamin, John Dewey, Theodor Adorno, and Jürgen Habermas to argue that, as the Wake compounds the city under capitalism, it calls for ideal communities that respond to its material features with imagination, spontaneity, and joy.
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