The Self-Emptying Subject Book Event: Angels and Flies

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Beatrice Marovich is an assistant professor of theological studies at Hanover College. She works at the intersection of philosophy and theology and is currently working on a book called Creature Feeling: Political Theology and Animal Mortality.

Gilles Deleuze was no great proponent of theology. But he did recognize a kind of potency that was present, at least historically, in the concept of God. In a lecture on the early modern work of Spinoza, Deleuze posed that, prior to the 17th century, the figure of God gave philosophers a kind of creative freedom. This is not to say, of course, that these thinkers weren’t constrained in many ways by church authority. But, Deleuze suggests, philosophers were nevertheless able to work with these constraints in order to render them, instead, “a means of fantastic creation.” Working with the figure of God offered these thinkers a kind of conceptual opportunity—to think right alongside a figure that was, itself, entirely free of constraints. “With God,” Deleuze suggests, “everything is permitted.” Concepts, when pushed up against the figure of God, became free of the task of representation. Concepts could take on “lines, colors, movements” they would never have had “without this detour through God.” There was, Delezue suggests, a kind of joy in this intellectual labor.

For Deleuze, the creative joy of thinking with God was essentially a thing of the past. But in The Self-Emptying Subject: Kenosis and Immanence, Medieval to Modern Alex Dubilet seizes upon this old conceptual opportunity like it’s a live wire. Alex is not particularly interested in doing theology, at least not in the manner that contemporary academic theologians tend to self-consciously understand their intellectual labor. But Alex is invested in, as he puts it, “deactivating the battlefield of disciplinary polemics” that draws and re-draws the methodological boundary lines between religious and philosophical discourses over and over and over again. “Before we are philosophers or theologians, we are readers and thinkers,” Alex writes. And so, against these embittered polemics, Alex confounds the disciplinary boundaries between philosophy and theology, refusing to allow his project to be contained by either normatively religious or secular discursive limits. He takes some of his own detours through the figure of God. And he seems to find a contemplative but irreverent joy in this intellectual adventure. Yet he doesn’t stay on those roads, either. Instead he charts a winding footpath along the edges of philosophical and theological thought that is much more enticingly odd, and singular.

Continue reading “The Self-Emptying Subject Book Event: Angels and Flies”

Audio from the Speculative Medievalisms Event

The audio from the Speculative Medievalisms event that I participated in last week are now online. My talk on The Speculative Angel marks the first time I’ve talked in public about some of the weirder theological material I’ve been working on in my ongoing non-theology project. This talk is mostly tied to the texts that I’ve been using, some Medieval and others contemporary, but I’m working to see if angelology can be reclaimed as a kind of speculation about speculation from within a decidedly political perspective. That is, speculation about speculation which aims to think differently than the current state, which accords with the source material. I’m open to any remarks from those who listen to the talk. Ben Woodard’s response to my paper is at the end of the audio file. I have to admit that, while I was glad to hear someone else using my grey ecology phrase, I wasn’t entirely sure what Ben was trying to say to me even though I guessed it would have something to do with demons. The chair, Eileen Joy, was quite taken with his talk though and it seemed well received by the audience, so I am probably missing something here.

All of the talks were very interesting, but Nick Srnick’s talk and the two responses that follow are really worth a listen, especially for those interested in political theology and economics. He’s posted online the powerpoint he used in the talk as well.

Hark!

For the most part, angels have been successfully downplayed in modern Christianity. There are of course the “spiritual warfare” types and the various New Age-y angel trends, but when it comes to preaching in most churches, angels are reduced to a bare minimum. That’s why it’s so jarring to realize how completely unavoidable they are at Christmas time. Virtually every religious Christmas carol at least mentions them, and there are a few that are completely focused on the angels. And of course angels figure prominently in both the “standard” Christmas story from Luke and the one in Matthew.

Since reading Agamben’s Kingdom and the Glory, I’ve been much more interested in angels, and my immediate thought when this occurred to me during a Christmas Eve service at my parents’ church is that Christmas is also the most “economic” holiday. Continue reading “Hark!”