Monday, 3 October 2011

As You Hate It

Kristeva’s short essay ‘Atheism’ [in Hatred and Forgiveness (2011)] repudiates the ‘Communist’ atheism that killed her father by refusing to administer ‘costly medications to aged persons’ (‘the horror of this atheism requires no commentary’). Later she says: ‘a deeper study of theology, notably Marian, allowed me to note how Christendom went on to truly construct the maternal experience—in the guise of what some consider a “goddess mother” is Christianity, and others deplore as a “victimization” of femininity—at the intersection of biology and meaning. Recognition of virginity as an unthinkable externality, a challenge to the logics of beginnings, causes and effects; valorization of maternal love with its ecstatic as well as painful latencies; recompense for feminine paranoia, avid for power and sovereignty … these are a few of the advances of Marian worship, on which the subjectivity of men and women in the West was built and without comprehension of which this subkectivity would remain inaccessibility.’ [211]

That’s a large claim. I’m struggling, and failing, to think of any aspect of subjectivity at all, male or female, that’s not forged ‘at the intersection of biology and meaning.’ Elsewhere she says that ‘religions were constituted precisely as “catharses” or “purifications” of variants of “evil”, which were nothing other than various destinies of hatred’ [191]. It’s a strange notion: hatred as precisely a pure passion—Christ chasing the money-lenders out of the temple, for instance—is precisely a cornerstone appeal of religion. The world bruises your heel; you can lash out, with perfect hatred, and bruise its head. ‘I can enjoy my hatred, now, because religion has helped me to channel it towards its proper targets: evil!’ This is the kind of knot of which psychoanalysis is so good at elucidating, of course; except that the implication of this analysis is that religion provides a kind of short-circuit of the hatred-emotion; and I don't think that's right.

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