Discerning the body: a sacramental hermeneutic in literature and liturgy

Godin, Mark Anthony (2010) Discerning the body: a sacramental hermeneutic in literature and liturgy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2009godinphd.pdf] PDF
Download (1MB)
Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2705226


This thesis asks the question: what does it mean to “discern the body” (1 Cor. 11:29)? Answering this begins with the question’s origin in the sacramental context of a particular Christian community’s attempt to observe what became known as the Eucharist. In their physicality, sacraments act as reminders that theological concepts, while they systematise experience and knowledge, can never be simply abstract; theology must never forget the particular, discrete nature of human beings, the separation of creatures, the otherness that allows true plurality and mutuality.
My thesis is divided in three parts, to address bodies and their stories in theory, literary art, and sacramental liturgy. The first part of the thesis offers a critical reading of various theologies of body and story, applying to them insights from feminist epistemology concerning situated knowledge. The critique examines the work of Graham Ward, Stanley Hauerwas, Marcella Althaus-Reid, and Paul Ricoeur, looking at the way that even their attempts to take the body into account tend to downplay the concreteness of particular people and their stories.
The second part of the thesis explores the way that literature handles the problems of particularity and universality, looking at specific stories in specific novels, and examining the way they treat bodies and the meeting of bodies. I address five novels. In conversation with Anil’s Ghost, by Michael Ondaatje, I discuss the importance of touch in defining meaning. With A Map of Glass, by Jane Urquhart, I look at bodies as tactile maps and geographies of memory. Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels, leads me to a discussion of the place of artistic form in the determination of meaning both for the body and for literature. The Man on a Donkey, by H. F. M. Prescott, leads to reflections upon disjunctions in bodies as various narratives make claims upon them. The discussion of Godric, by Frederick Buechner, centres upon personal identity being constructed physically, artistically and relationally through proximity with others.
The third part investigates the nature of sacraments and sacramental theology as a place of attending to both the abstract and the particular, to the person—seeking a geography of love. To do this, I begin with a discussion of the search for a normative liturgical pattern as exemplified by Dom Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy, focusing on the consequences for acknowledging the unruliness of the materiality of bodies. I then examine the approach of Gordon W. Lathrop, who uses the image of the map for describing liturgy. But his use of this metaphor construes the liturgical map as a given, turning away from interactive, creative possibilities. As a response, I look to the theologian Charles Winquist, who writes about the particularity of love. Finally, I bring together my reflections from the first two parts of the thesis to make suggestions about the liturgical body: that it is discerned by paying attention to the stories that the body carries, to the relationships in which bodies are implicated and to their locations, and to the vulnerabilities manifested by love and grief, by care.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: body, sacraments, liturgy, literature, particularity, materiality, plurality, relationship, partiality, traces, situated knowledges, feminist epistemology, imagination, identity
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Prof. David and Walton, Dr. Heather
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Mr Mark A. Godin
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-1400
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2010
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2013 15:55
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1400

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year