Friday, 19 May 2006

Reading Braveheart

A tyrant arises, several coups d'état later he's deposed: the people have liberated themselves from the domination of the other - they have freedom?

The dominant interpretation of a text is judged tyranical, several deconstructions later its deposed: the reader has liberated himself from the domination of the other - he has freedom?

The Creator defines good, one rebellion later he's rejected: the creature has liberated himself from the domination of the other - he has freedom?

The basic problem with the postmodern liberation of the reader from dominant interpretations is that it fails to free readers from themselves. The irony of this liberation from fixed orders is that the postmodern self becomes free and responsible only by emptying out everything that opposes it. That meaning is not "really" there, but only an impostition of institutional idealogies and practices, is a liberating insight for the postmodernist; for if nothing is really there, then nothing can make a claim on my life. Must we say, amending Derrida, that there is nothing outside oneself? This does seem to be the logic behind much postmodern thought. An independent reality with its own intrinsic order would limit my creativity and call my freedom into question. [Vanhoozer, p.394]
One may reject that there is an Other, but that doesn't help with the problem of Self. The problem of Self is not the ultimate problem: the ultimate problem is that of God's wrath on the selfishness of the Self. But rejecting that there is a God, an ultimate Other, doesn't get rid of the problem. The world continues to have otherness to it, and selfishness continues to be a problem - none of the little others made in God's image appreciate it, even if you imagine that God himself isn't there in judgement of it. And so the problem with our preoccupation with freedom - freedom from political tyranny, from textual/authorial dictatorship, from patristic culture, or what you will - is that we fail to free ourselves.

To be truly free, we need set free by that Other we have denied, to live freely in his dominion as designed. Otherwise, we're trying to be fish out of water. Again.


Caleb W said...

I'm not sure I've quter understood clearly what your final point is. I agree with you in so far as I follow your argument, but I think you need to make clearer what you mean by needing to be "free from ourselves" and what true freedom means.

Some people I've come across do seem to follow a line of thinking that would, if taken to its logical conclusion, boil down to "I don't want anything as inconvenient as reality interfering with my freedom to think and act as I wish!"

The sad thing is that the belief any Other is unknowable to us leads to an incredible loneliness. The film Lost in Translation aches with the loneliness of a postmodern existence where people drift about in a sea of non-communication. Freedom from everything means being left with nothing.

What I've found encouraging lately is coming across a number of books, not just Christian ones, that show a discontent with postmodernism and where it has taken literary theory and culture more generally. I'm planning on doing my English dissertation on Christianity and literary theory, and I really feel that the time is ripe for Christians to step up and make the arguments for a Biblically-based post-critical theory, that has real answers to the problems raised by postmodernism. I've just started reading "Towards a Christian Literay Theory" by Luke Ferretter, though my research in this area has to take a back seat to my exam revision at the moment.

I enjoy reading your thoughts on these matters. I'm glad to be able to read the thoughts of Christians as they grapple with these matters.


Nathan said...

Hey Rosemary. I really enjoyed this post and I couldn't fit everything I wanted to say in this comment box so I did a mammoth post on my own blog here if you're interested! I also nicked your goldfish cartoon but I credited you. Hope that's ok! It's just really good stuff!

étrangère said...

Your right Caleb, it begs developing but I didn't want to write an essay so it got posted half-baked. You've read the Vanhoozer? It's taken me the greater part of 2 years, on and off, but I'm almost finished :D

Nathan, I confess I got the general idea for the cartoon from a picture on the web anyway :-$ My creativity has fairly close limits. Your post sure is mammoth - interesting interaction with Jacques!