The geography of sinfulness: mapping Calvinist subjectiving between word and image

Van Andel, Kelly (2009) The geography of sinfulness: mapping Calvinist subjectiving between word and image. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis on Calvinist subjectivity within the work of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) explores how the dialectic of word and image, and subsequently the Word, Logos, and word as rhetoric constructs conceptions of selfhood necessarily associated with and bound by the rhetoric of sinfulness. In contrast to studies that synthesize Edwardsian, and, in turn, Calvinist schemas of sin and selfhood within religious doctrine and treatises, this project examines the experiential nature of sinfulness as expressed through language or poetics. Given such examination, this work posits three things. First, in general terms, it contends that, during the Reformation, the displacement of icons led the Word to acquire the positive and negative functions of religious imagery that it meant to displace: to lead persons to God and to lead them away from him. Second, the project finds that the work of Edwards, which emphasizes feeling and personal spiritual experience, signals another shift in the Calvinist dialectic of word and image, and, then heralds the possibility of a type of ecstatic or ‘sweet’ communion with God outside of sin and language itself.. Third, and more particularly, this text argues that despite Edwards’ rhetoric of ‘sweetness’, the geography of sinfulness that both pervades and varies within Edwards’ language, creates a Calvinist subjectivity, as it filters through the word/image dialectic, that becomes trapped within Edwardsian rhetoric, and, in turn, encounters difficulty experiencing the salvation to which it portends.

In the end, then, this project both challenges and expands the corpus of Edwards’ scholarship in two ways. First, it demonstrates that, although valuable, sole attention to historical and theological exegesis of Edwards’ texts does not adequately account for the paradoxical tensions and meaning of Calvinist selfhood posed by the Puritan’s work and evidenced by the word/image dialectic. Second, and most importantly, the project indicates that, in actuality, apart from what the majority of Edwardsian, particularly Evangelical, scholarship contends, the ‘sweetness’ and spiritual sensations Edwards speaks of selfhood only partially open to the divine and salvific assurance. True, Edwards can still be celebrated as the Father of American Evangelical thought and practice. This project, however, questions if Edwards’ interpreters have ignored the signposts of his language and created an icon(s) of himself, and, subsequently, of a type of Calvinist selfhood that figures the narrative of their own story. In the end, then, this thesis finds itself back at its beginning as it confronts the nature and work of icons and the possibilities and variances of language—as icon and idol itself—that lay in their wake.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues this thesis is not available for viewing. Access to the print version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: calvinist subjectivity, Word, Image, Icons
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Professor David
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Dr. Kelly Van Andel
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1418
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2009
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2018 13:14

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