Advertisement

Introduction

  • Paul Cefalu
Chapter
  • 32 Downloads

Abstract

The epigraphs above, taken from the work of three of the most influential contemporary philosophers and cultural critics, share a preoccupation with the void or empty place as a foundational given of any ontology. Throughout each theorist’s work the constitutive void appears under different names and conceptual frameworks. For Žižek, it is often used interchangeably with the Lacanian real as well as the elusive objet a; for Agamben it is intrinsic to the sovereign exception or homo sacer; for Badiou it derives from the principles of naive and axiomatic set theory, in which the null or empty set founds any set theoretic multiple. It is the project of this book to determine to what extent this contemporary preoccupation with ontological voids, empty sets, and anomic spaces can help illuminate the religious aspects of the work of some key seventeenth-century religious writers, including John Donne, Richard Crashaw, John Milton, and Thomas Traherne.

Keywords

Empty Place Political Theology Negative Theology Ascetic Ideal Homo Sacer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Slavoj Zižek, The Fragile Absolute, or Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For?(London: Verso, 2000), 26–27.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 86.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Alain Badiou, Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return of Philosophy, trans. Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens (London: Continuum, 2004), 86.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Zižek draws on Lacan’s theory of sublimation, according to which an object elevated to the dignity of das Ding is rendered sublime: “What the objects, in their given positivity, are masking is not some other, more substantial order of objects, but simply the void, the emptiness, of what they are filling out. We must remember that there is nothing intrinsically sublime in a sublime object—according to Lacan, a sublime object is an ordinary, everyday object, which, quite by chance, finds itself occupying the place of what he calls das Ding, the impossible-real object of desire.” Ž ižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso, 1989), 194. The most comprehensive comparison of Ž ižek’s use of the concept of the sublime with the Kantian sublime aesthetic can be found in George Hartley, The Abyss of Representation: Marxism and the Postmodern Sublime (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), esp. chs. 1 and 2.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    R. V. Young, Doctrine and Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Poetry: Studies in Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, and Vaughan (London: D. S. Brewer, 2000). This is the most comprehensive reassessment of seventeenthcentury Protestant poetics. For an earlier re-evaluation of the Protestant consensus, see Achsah Guibbory, Ceremony and Community from Herbert to Milton: Literature, Religion, and Cultural Conflict in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Richard Strier, Resistant Structures: Particularity, Radicalism, and Renaissance Texts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 4. For a good summary and reassessment of Strier’s important work, especially in relation to Donne’s poetry, see Ronald Corthell, Ideology and Desire in Renaissance Poetry: The Subject of Donne (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997), 28–29.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    On early modern accounts of the nature of void space, see Edward Grant, Much Ado About Nothing: Theories of Space and Vacuum from the Middle Ages to the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Slavoj Zižek, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2003), 78.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Eric L. Santner, The Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and Rosenzweig (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 47.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Ibid., 37.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Ibid., 82.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Ibid., 27.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Eric L. Santner, On Creaturely Life: Rilke, Benjamin, Sebald (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 15.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    Ibid., 22–23.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Cited in Alenka Zupančič, The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two (Cambridge: Massachusets Institute of Technology Press, 2003), 47–48.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    Bruce Fink, A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 8. For more on Lacan’s notion of jouissance, see Jacques Lacan, On Jouissance, in On Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge, Book XX, Encore 1972–1973, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998), passim chapter 1. See also Richard Boothby, Freud as Philosopher: Metapsychology After Lacan (New York: Routledge Press, 2001), 159–60.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (London: Verso, 2002), 25.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    Peter Hallward, Badiou: A Subject to Truth (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 102.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Ibid., 118.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Ibid., 95. It is precisely on the ontological status of void space that Badiou departs from Lacan, who has influenced Badiou’s metaphysics to a certain extent. For Badiou, the void is an ontological first principle, the very ground of being. Lacan, on Badiou’s interpretation, would not accept any association between void space and being qua being: “For Lacan… the void is not on the side of being. This, I think, is a crucial point of conflict. Let us say that philosophy localizes the void as condition of truth on the side of being qua being, while psychoanalysis localizes the void in the Subject, for the Subject is what disappears in the gap between two signifiers…. For Lacan, if the void is on the side of being, this means that thought is also on the side of being, because thought is precisely the exercise of separation.” Badiou, Infinite Thought, 87. For more on Badiou’s critique of Lacan, especially regarding theories of subjectivity, see Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (London: Continuum, 2005), 431–35.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    The most developed Lacanian account of Freud’s myth of the primal horde can be found in Slavoj Ž ižek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology (London: Verso, 2000), passim chapter 6.Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    See Suzanne Barnard, “Tongues of Angels: Feminine Structure and Other Jouissance,” in Reading Seminar XX: Lacan’s Major Work on Love, Knowledge, and Feminine Sexuality (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002). Cited in Santner, On Creaturely Life, 198.Google Scholar
  23. 28.
    See Kenneth Reinhard, “Toward a Political Theology of the Neighbor,” in The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology, eds. Slavoj Ž ižek, Eric L. Santner, and Kenneth Reinhard (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 57.Google Scholar
  24. 34.
    See Debora Kuller Shuger, Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance: Religion, Politics, and the Dominant Culture (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), passim chapter 5.Google Scholar
  25. 37.
    See Slavoj Ž ižek, The Abyss of Freedom (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  26. 38.
    Alenka Zupančič, Ethics of the Real: Kant, Lacan (London: Verso, 2000), passim chapter 6. 39. See Gary Kuchar, Divine Subjection: The Rhetoric of Sacramental Devotion in Early Modern England (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  27. 40.
    Ibid., 25.Google Scholar
  28. 41.
    Ibid., 29.Google Scholar
  29. 49.
    See Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1992), 93–146. For Laclau’s more recent reflections on the relationship between master signifiers and hegemony, see Ernesto Laclau, Emancipation(s) (London: Verso, 1996), passim chapter 3; and Ernesto Laclau, “Identity and Hegemony: The Role of Universality in the Constitution of Political Logics,” in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left, eds. Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Ž ižek (London: Verso, 2000), 182–212.Google Scholar
  30. 54.
    Carl Schmitt directly links the advent of the sovereign exception to sixteenth-century politics, especially the writings of Jean Bodin. See Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. George Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), passim chapter 5.Google Scholar
  31. 55.
    In an important essay on Schmitt’s decisionism and early modern politics, Victoria Kahn argues that Schmitt’s account of political exceptionalism overlooks instances in which the sovereign might actually “fake” states of emergency. Since this seems to have been the case under Jacobean and Caroline politics—Charles’ false claim, for example, that pirates were threatening the British coastline—Kahn concludes that Schmitt’s theory inadequately explains seventeenth-century examples of the sovereign exception. In the spirit of Ž ižek’s critique of ideologies, I would argue instead that to “fake” an exception only reinforces the numinous aspect of the sovereign’s power, thereby enhancing the “surplus animation” that it inspires in subjects. See Victoria Kahn, “Hamlet or Hecuba: Carl Schmitt’s Decision,” in Representations 83:1 (2003), 67–96, esp. 70.Google Scholar
  32. 56.
    For an excellent survey of the distinction between absolute and ordained power, see William J. Courtenay, Capacity and Volition: A History of the Distinction of Absolute and Ordained Power (Bergamo: Pierluigi Lubrina, 1990).Google Scholar
  33. 58.
    Julia Reinhard Lupton, Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 162.Google Scholar
  34. 60.
    Cited in J. K. Mozley, The Impassibility of God: A Survey of Christian Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926), 61.Google Scholar
  35. 61.
    Ibid., 122.Google Scholar
  36. 62.
    Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God (San Francisco: Harper Collins Press, 1991), 30.Google Scholar
  37. 63.
    Ibid., 32.Google Scholar
  38. 64.
    See Graham Ward, “Suffering and Incarnation,” in Suffering Religion, eds. Robert Gibbs and Elliot R. Wolfson (London: Routledge Press, 2002), 171. On divine pathos in early modern Cabbalistic writings, see in the same volume, Elliot R. Wolfson, “Divine Suffering and the Hermeneutics of Reading: Philosophical Reflections on Lurianic Mythology,” 101–62.Google Scholar
  39. 65.
    On divine pathos, see also A. J. Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Harper and Row, 1962).Google Scholar
  40. 66.
    The best recent assessment of negative theology in relation to philosophy can be found in Hent de Vries, Philosophy and the Turn to Religion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), esp. 119–57, which provides a comprehensive gloss on Angelus Silesius’s Cherubimic Wanderer.Google Scholar
  41. 67.
    Jacques Derrida, On the Name, ed. Thomas Dutot, trans. David Wood, John P. Leavey, and Ian McLeod (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995), 68.Google Scholar
  42. 68.
    For more on Derrida and negative theology, see John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon, eds., God, The Gift, and Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999); Jacques Derrida and Gianni Vattimo, eds., Religion (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998); Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, trans. David Willis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); John Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997); and Graham Ward, “Deconstructive Theology,” in the Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 76–91. For an earlier poststructuralist study of religion, see Mark C. Taylor, Erring: A Postmodern A/theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  43. 69.
    Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being, trans. Thomas A. Carlson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 46–47.Google Scholar
  44. 71.
    Stephen Greenblatt, “Psychoanalysis and Renaissance Culture,” in Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992), 135.Google Scholar
  45. 72.
    Ibid., 136.Google Scholar
  46. 73.
    Ibid., 143.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Paul Cefalu 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Cefalu

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations