Narrow gates, strait ways: the postmodern sacred and the icon

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Vella, David
  • Subject: B1

This study compares two prevalent notions in postmodern philosophy and critical-cultural theory: the sacred and the icon. On the one hand, the sacred has often been described as the exposure to an abyssal reality that is completely foreign to human perception and control. This deeply subversive event is presented through two of its\ud most influential thinkers, Georges Bataille and Maurice Blanchot. On the other hand, the icon marks the experience of a sensitivity to the singular selfhood of the other. It\ud comprises a loving receptivity to its unique identity, in particular the identity of the human or divine stranger who is excluded or victimized by human narratives and structures. Intrinsic to the ethical scene, as I show through Emmanuel Levinas and Richard Kearney, is an interaction rather than a subjugation of the subject by the other.\ud \ud This project seeks to present the similarities and differences between the sacred and the icon. In particular, it calls for a certain relationship between them, allowing\ud both to be observed in each other’s respective light. Both are thus re-examined through their relation to each other. Moreover, this bond is seen to be ethically significant for\ud either phenomenon and it helps redefine the sacred and the icon in a manner that is closer to actual experience. It also perceives either one in terms of a practical efficacy.\ud To exemplify these views, the Christian mystical experience known as the ‘passive dark night of the soul’ is explored insofar as it constitutes one of the most radical instances of the icon. Crucial to this relationship is its exposure of the possible shortcomings and misjudgements of previous conceptions of the sacred. A potential new role for the\ud sacred is indicated: a function that is at once more ethical and constructive.\ud \ud Above all, the underlying concern of this study is the very nature of this interaction of the two extremes. Throughout, it shows this affiliation as dialectical by nature. Between the sacred and the icon, a process of a mutual coinciding and estranging takes place.
  • References (1)

    'As If It Were Possible: “Within Such Limits” ...', in Negotiations: Interventions and Interviews, 1971-2001, ed. Elizabeth Rottenberg, trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg (California: Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 343-70. Pascal, Massie, 'The Secret and the Neuter: On Heidegger and Blanchot', in Research in Phenomenology, ed. John Sallis, 37 (2007), pp. 32-55. Toth, Josh, 'A Certain Perhaps: Touching on the Decisiveness of Derrida's Indecision', in Mosaic, ed. Dawne McCance, 40/2 (2007), pp. 245-60.

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